Auburn and King County officials are talking about whether a guardrail or some other kind of safety measure on Green River Road might have helped stop a car from plunging into the Green River on Nov. 7 and drowning two youngsters.
"We are talking with the county now about what can be done there," Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis said Friday.
He said he and some of the Auburn City Council members have been to the accident site just north of the Auburn Golf Course. The narrow two-lane road comes within 10-15 feet of the sloping river bank where the car went into the river.
There is no guardrail there, though a few hundred feet north of the accident site a quarter-mile of guardrail offers protection from the river.
Lewis said he doesn’t know if a guardrail is warranted or not. "That’s why we are communicating," he said. "I don’t know exactly what happened out there. I want to see the investigator’s report” on the accident.
Linda Dougherty, head of the King County Road Services Division, said this week that they will await the results of a King County Sheriff’s investigation of the accident before further reviewing the Green River Road where the accident occurred.
That investigation could take a couple months to complete, according to a King County Sheriff spokesman.
She said the investigation will help determine if there is anything about the road there that may have contributed to the accident.
The accident occurred when the 2007 Volkwagen Beetle driven by a 16-year-old student veered off the road into the rain-swollen river about 8:30 a.m. The two passengers inside, Hunter Beaupre, 2, and Austin Fuda, 13, drowned. The driver was able to escape.
It took four days for King County sheriff’s divers to retrieve the car from fast-flowing river. Beaupre was found in his car seat. Fuda was not found in the car. A search of the river for his body has been postponed until the river returns to a safe level.
The road and right of way by the river where the accident occurred is owned by King County and is just outside the Auburn city limits. Use of the Green River Road had grown over the years. It is also a popular north-south commuter route between Auburn and Kent. Fishermen park along its length to access the river.
"This is one of those items where we don’t have a hammer (to require something be done) but we can talk," Lewis said.
Dougherty said that until the accident the county never perceived a problem there and no one had called to complain about the area.
She said an engineer visited the site after the accident and didn’t see anything that indicated an immediate safety problem.
"We absolutely want to do the right thing," she said, adding that "our hearts go out to the families."