WHS golf team injured in 5-car accident
Surgery ahead for coach; team returning to action upon medical okay
April 26, 2018
Members of the Wahkiakum High School golf team were among the injured in a five-vehicle traffic accident at 1:25 p.m. last Thursday.
According to a report from the Washington State Patrol, the team was in a 2005 Ford Excursion, fourth in a line of eastbound vehicles stopped for highway maintenance work near milepost 44, about two miles west of County Line Park. A 2014 Ford F350 pickup driven by Niels W. Paulsen, age 84, Centralia, collided with the team van from behind and pushed it into the vehicle in front, causing a chain reaction.
Van driver and team golf coach Nick Vavoudis, 64, Cathlamet, sustained injuries to the back and head and was airlifted to PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver. Friends say he is recovering but will have surgery on one of the injuries this week.
Golf team members Logan LaBerge, Kaden Anderson, Bryce Good, Elijah Doiron, Tyler Stonge, Heidi Bruntmeyer and Zachary Johnston were transported to PeaceHealth St. John Hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries.
Paulsen also sustained injuries and was transported to St. John.
Also involved in the collision were:
--Skamokawa resident Keith L. Hoofnagle, 76, who was driving a 2015 Toyota Yaris; he was transported to St. John;
--Longview resident Alexander J. Daight, 28; who was driving a Toyota Scion; he was not injured, and
--Olympia resident John D. Lorenzo, 59, who was driving a 1996 Ford F250 pickup; he was not injured.
Lorenzo's vehicle was damaged and could be driven from the scene; the other vehicles were towed away.
All drivers were wearing seatbelts, the state patrol reported; it was unknown if golf team members were belted.
The golfers who have received medical clearance planned to return to action today (Thursday). If not, said Principal Stephanie Leitz, then they will likely play next Tuesday. They went to the golf store on Tuesday to price clubs and get fitted. The team also went to the hospital to visit Coach Vavoudis.
"While the accident has been traumatic for the athletes, coach and their families," Wahkiakum School District Superintendent Bob Garrett said Tuesday, "we are grateful for the efforts of all of the emergency responders, the staff at the emergency rooms at St. John, the Lifeflight staff and the staff at SW WA Medical Center in Vancouver. All have been awesome! I am also grateful for all the support offered by our district staff and community members.
"While all of our involved athletes were treated and released on the same day, they still have varying degrees of needs, and we will assist them in any way we can. Our thoughts and prayers are now focusing on Coach Nick."
Assistant Coach Eli McElroy will guide the team while Vavoudis recovers.