WALLA WALLA - A one-vehicle collision at Frog Hollow and Valley Chapel roads sent five people to the hospital Friday night, according to Washington State Patrol.
The driver, Ashley O'Neil, 22, from Milton-Freewater, has been airlifted to Harborview Medical Center, where she was listed in critical condition Saturday afternoon.
The wreck happened at 11:27 p.m., about five miles east of Walla Walla.
Driving a 1992 Volvo, O'Neil was eastbound on Frog Hollow Road when she failed to negotiate a curve and the car struck the guardrail, law enforcement reported. The car came to rest on the eastbound shoulder.
Fire District 4 responded to the scene and found the guardrail entered the car through the windshield and exited through the rear window. Emergency responders extracted O'Neil, noted Brian Jones, assistant chief with the fire district.
There was no rain at the time, but the road and fields were wet, he added.
A report from Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office noted the first deputy on the scene found O'Neil's four passengers outside the car and down on the ground, while the driver remained in the Volvo and pinned there by the guard rail. She had a "large wound on her head," the report said.
Bill Bennington was letting his dog out at his home on Frog Hollow Road when he heard panicked screaming, he said Saturday. He jumped in his car and drove to the scene of the accident, which Bennington called "horrific."
Two people were standing outside the Volvo, but not for long before they went down, he said.
Inside the car, Bennington could see the guard rail had gone through the vehicle just to the right of the driver's head and extended past the rear windshield by seven feet or so. The damage to O'Neil looked extensive, he added. "I said, ‘Oh no, oh no.' All I could do was settle people down to wait."
Three of the passengers were taken to Providence St. Mary Medical Center by ambulance. Mari G. Swinnerton, 17, Walla Walla, was stabilized and transferred to Kadlec Medical Center, where she was being evaluated in the emergency department at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Tanner L. Homewood, 21, and Charles A. Buettner, 25, both of Walla Walla, were treated and released, noted the St. Mary nursing supervisor, who added that no information was available about Chantal M. Brown, 22, Walla Walla, who was taken to the hospital by a private party, officials said. All five were reportedly using seat belts.
O'Neil was initially transferred to Kadlec, where she was stabilized and transferred to Harborview at about 3:15 a.m. Saturday, a spokesman at Kadlec said.
It's one of the many terrible accidents he's seen "in the last 20 years, basically in my yard," Bennington said. Those involved in Friday's collision "are so lucky to be alive. It should have killed two or three of them."
The wreck is still under investigation.