‘Absolute miracle’: Teen healing after wrong-way crash

Chloe Yates was severely injured when a wrong-way driver hit her on I-5

Chloe Yates recovering in the hospital as seen on Oct. 20, 2017. (Courtesy photo to KOIN)
Chloe Yates recovering in the hospital as seen on Oct. 20, 2017. (Courtesy photo to KOIN)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Chloe Yates was coming home from an anatomy and physiology class at Clark College in her quest to become a nurse when her life took a dramatic turn on October 9.

That night, a wrong-way driver was in the northbound lanes of I-5 near Salmon Creek when his 2011 Ford Escape collided with Chloe’s Volkswagen Jetta. The man died at the scene while Chloe was rushed to Peace Health Southwest for emergency treatment.

Andrew and Shannon Yates, the parents of Chloe Yates, address the media about her recovery from a head-on crash caused by another driver, October 20, 2017 (KOIN)
Andrew and Shannon Yates, the parents of Chloe Yates, address the media about her recovery from a head-on crash caused by another driver, October 20, 2017 (KOIN)

On Friday, her dad Andrew Yates said he thinks her survival is a “miracle.”

“The series of things that happened after the accident, things that happened with her car so she didn’t have more injuries, with everyone arriving as soon as they did and taking such good care of her,” he told KOIN 6 News. “To us it’s just an absolute miracle, so it’s really easy for me to draw strength from the fact that we still have her.”

The teen is actually a senior at Woodland High School but is in the Running Start program and takes all her classes at Clark College.

“A 17-year-old girl, you know, you can imagine your life, how you want it and your plans and everything, of how you want to become,” he said, “and just get tossed upside down so quickly.”

GoFundMe — Chloe’s Recovery Fund

Her father said he’s biased but thinks “she is just a wonderful human being. She has something in her spirit that draws kids and animals and things like that. We call her ‘Snow White’, we kind of joke around with her on that because she can walk outside and raise her arms and everybody just comes to her.”

He said a friend of Chloe’s was behind her when the crash happened “and was able to get to her immediately and could start talking to her to keep her awake until the EMS could get there.”

The wrong-way driver, Seth J. Cusick of Vancouver, “apparently ran an ambulance off the road when he entered the freeway,” Yates said. After the crash an ambulance arrived quickly at the scene and helped Chloe.

“I would like to really, really thank them for getting there so quickly.”

Dr. Kevin Kahn, an orthopedic traumatologist at PeaceHealth Southwest, said Chloe suffered 14 injuries that required treatment.

Both her legs were badly injured along with her left collar bone and left arm. Kahn said it will take at least 6 months for healing, and she’ll need extensive physical therapy to teach her muscles how to walk again.

Dr. Kevin Kahn, an orthopedic traumatologist at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, October 20, 2017 (KOIN)
Dr. Kevin Kahn, an orthopedic traumatologist at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, October 20, 2017 (KOIN)

“But she should be able to walk and run and do most of the recreational things she wants to do for the rest of her life,” the doctor said.

“I think Chloe has been very fortunate to have this team of people taking care of her,” Kahn said Friday. “She’s doing well, she seems to be in remarkably good spirits considering how severe some of her injuries are. This is something years ago could have had a much different outcome than she’s going to have.”

Her father said Chloe can talk and understands what’s going on, but doesn’t remember leaving class that night or anything about the accident. But she wanted to see a picture of the crash.

“My wife (Shannon) was concerned that might be a little bit emotional for her,” but they decided to let her see the pictures.

One person died and another was injured in a crash caused by a wrong-way driver on October 9, 2017. (WSP)
One person died and another was injured in a crash caused by a wrong-way driver on October 9, 2017. (WSP)

“She really realized how lucky she actually is to still be here today, so hopefully she can focus on that a little bit to help her through some of her troubles she’s going to have for quite a while,” he said.

He said the entire family is so grateful for the “overwhelming” response from the community of Woodland and everyone at PeaceHealth Southwest.

“We get the feeling that the staff here at the hospital is taking care of our daughter. She is one of their own children.”

Andrew Yates said he prays his daughter will have as close to a full recovery as possible, and he takes joy in the fact she’s still here.

“I get to kiss her forehead everyday, multiple times,” he said. “I truly believe that there’s a reason she’s still here, you know, there’s something big planned for her and we’ll find out what that is.”