What was supposed to be a fun trip to the U.S. to play lahal nearly turned tragic as a Nuu-chah-nulth family of three were struck head-on by a suspected drunk driver.
Stephen Lucas Sr., his wife and daughter left their homes in Port Alberni and Nanaimo to Auburn, WA. to spend the Easter long weekend playing in the Muckleshoot Stick Game 2023 tournament. The tournament was held at the White River Amphitheatre, 48 kilometres southeast of Seattle.
After sorting out their accommodations on Friday, April 7, the family drove back to the Muckleshoot grounds to play lahal that night. It was after midnight, early in the morning on April 8 when they climbed into their 2015 Ford Fiesta to drive the 14.5-kilometre trip to their motel room in Enumclaw when the unthinkable happened.
Lareina Lucas was driving east on the two-lane road when she saw a vehicle with its headlights off veering into her lane.
“At the last second I turned the wheel hard to the right so that I would take the hit and save my parents,” she told Ha-Shilth-Sa.
Lucas says she lost consciousness on impact and when she came to, “all I could hear was agonizing screams of pain, it was like the ancestors were calling us,” she recalled.
Lucas remembered the instant pain she felt when she regained consciousness.
“I heard my mom yelling my name and I kept fading out, but my mom kept me awake,” she said.
Lucas recalls being unable to move. She wanted to look behind her to see if her father was okay, but she couldn’t turn.
“I told my parents not to move, that it might not be safe for them to move,” she said.
She recalls a man and woman checking on them before paramedics arrived.
“I know I couldn’t move (on my own) but it felt like my arm moved closer to me, to a safer place, like a higher power was moving me, protecting me,” shared Lucas.
Sometime later, paramedics worked carefully to extract Lareina’s broken body from the tangled wreck.
“They had to pull on my broken arms and leg to get me out and they kept apologizing for the pain this caused,” she remembered.
Lareina was flown by helicopter to Harborview Hospital in Seattle.
According to a Washington State Patrol press memo issued April 8, Lareina Lucas, age 40, was driving with her mother, April Gus, 60 and her father Stephen Lucas Sr., 69, heading eastbound on State Route 164 at about 1:30 a.m. when a 2015 Toyota Tundra pick-up truck travelling in the opposite direction veered into their lane, striking them head-on. Both vehicles were totalled.
The driver of the Toyota was Allen S. Moses, 21, of Auburn, WA. He is facing charges of vehicular assault and driving under the influence.
Everyone in the Lucas car suffered serious injuries, including broken bones. All involved in the collision were transported to area hospitals.
“Charges against the driver of the first vehicle, allegedly from Auburn, have not yet been filed as of April 7; it is suspected that drugs or alcohol were involved,” states a report in the Enumclaw Courier Herald.
According to the Washington State Patrol, both lanes of SR 164 at 228th Ave. SE was closed for three hours and 42 minutes. Both Moses and April Gus were transported to the Valley Medical Centre in Covington, WA.
A family member reports that Gus suffered a broken wrist, ankle, pelvis and ribs, with a punctured lung.
Stephen Lucas Sr. suffered a broken sternum, collar bone and pelvis, according to a family member. He was transported St. Joseph Hospital in Tacoma.
Lareina Lucas suffered extensive injuries with compound fractures in both arms and a broken leg. She was transported to Harborview Hospital in Seattle and required multiple surgeries.
Lareina stated that both her parents have had surgery and that her father was able to walk on April 11.
In a video posted to social media, Lareina told her family that she loved them. She admitted that she is in pain and that she worries about her parents who are at other hospitals. She has visible stitches in her forehead, splints on three of her extremities and traces of dried blood on her face. She has a stylus in her mouth because she can’t use her hands.
“I don’t know if I want to drive again for fear of another drunk driver being out there,” she told her audience.
Friends and relatives of the Gus/Lucas family quickly launched fundraisers to help them and to get children and grandchildren to the U.S. to visit. There are several small fundraisers taking place in an effort to support the family’s needs.
Lareina has five children and has been able to see the older three, thanks to the efforts of family and friends. She has the identification of her two younger children, ages 10 and 12, in her possession. Lucas says if she can’t go home to Vancouver Island anytime soon, she will send the identification back with her brother to Canada so that her children can cross the border. For now, she sees them through video calls.
Lucas says she is pushing to go back home to the Island.
“The social worker makes it sound easy and says it’s up to me,” said Lucas.
But, to go home, she would be sent in a wheelchair in a private vehicle, likely her daughter’s car.
The hospital social worker has been helping Lucas with paperwork necessary to get assistance from her First Nation so that accommodations will be covered for her husband and daughter who are staying by her side.
None of the injured had traveler’s insurance. It is not known how the hospital expenses will be covered.
On April 13, Lareina learned that Allen Moses, who collided with her, had a driver’s license but didn’t have insurance. She told Ha-Shilth-Sa she is worried about how the hospital bills will be paid.
The Government of Canada advises its citizens to buy traveler’s health insurance even for a day trip to the US. This is because your Canadian health insurance may not pay your medical bills while you're outside Canada, and that your provincial or territorial health plan may cover none, or only a small part, of the costs of your medical care abroad.
Close family members are doing what they can to assist Lareina and her parents as they try to figure out how their medical expenses will be paid and how they will get home. But without answers or an advocate, the family has more stress to contend with on their long road to recovery.
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