A Walla Walla native died Monday after a two-vehicle crash near Ritzville, Wash., according to the Washington State Patrol.
Hailey Pearce, 25, of La Grande, was heading south on Highway 395, about 24 miles south of Ritzville, at just after 3 p.m., said Trooper Shawn Pichette.
Pearce, in a 1993 Accura, appears to have not seen the 2009 Chevrolet pickup ahead of her, Pinchette said Tuesday.
Driven by Robert Pence, 67, of Lind, Wash., the rig was a rear escort for a farming combine being driven on a straight stretch of road, Pichette said.
Pearce was traveling the speed limit of 70 mph when her car crashed into the back of Pence's truck. Pence reported no injuries.
Witnesses told Pichette there was no sign of erratic driving and that Pearce was belted in. There were no skid marks indicating braking, the trooper added.
While the passenger's side air bag deployed on impact, the driver's side air bag did not.
"I believe if the air bag was working, it probably would have saved her," Pichette noted.
Pearce, who suffered chest injuries, was found unconscious and a physician on the scene did the best he could without having equipment, he said.
Pearce was flown to Kadlec Medical Center in Tri-Cities. She died at 7:22 p.m., officials said.
Pearce was hired by Eastern Oregon University in La Grande as a volleyball coach in early 2010, after serving as an assistant at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. She graduated from the school in 2008 with a business management degree. She graduated from Walla Walla High School in 2004, where she excelled in volleyball and track and field, according to a 2010 news story.
Sheila Hagar can be reached at 509-526-8322 or firstname.lastname@example.org