Couple Killed in Interstate 5 Crash in Castle Rock Remembered
Rick Bannan / For The Chronicle
The Battle Ground couple killed in a crash on Interstate 5 in Cowlitz County late last month were always willing to go above and beyond to help others, their daughter says.
“Anything that anybody needed, anytime that somebody was sick or injured or staying in a hospital, my mom was right there by their side or with their family in the waiting room,” said Ashley Stoker about her parents Richard and Karen Stoker.
Ashley Stoker, also of Battle Ground, spent the past week checking in with her brother, Travis, who was also involved in the crash near Castle Rock on April 24, where a car hit the Stokers’ vehicle and a tow truck parked along the highway.
Travis Stoker is making a recovery, though he required arm and intestinal surgery and will have several weeks of recuperation. Ashley Stoker has been updating her brother’s condition on a GoFundMe page set up by a co-worker of Travis and his father, Richard. The elder Stoker was general manager of Dick Hannah Auto Body Shop in Vancouver and Travis Stoker works in the Chrysler parts department, Ashley Stoker said.
That co-worker, Josh Schen, said the Stokers were “both amazing people. Always helpful. Always smiling.”
“(It’s) sad to see something like this happen to them,” Schen said.
The GoFundMe page easily reached its initial $25,000 goal for funeral and medical expenses, with more than $79,000 raised as of press deadline.
“It’s amazing how much support and how much people have reached out to just offer anything,” Ashley Stoker said.
While initially support came from fellow Clark County residents, she said she’s been contacted by individuals across the country looking for ways to help her family.
Ashley Stoker said her late parents, 55-year-old Richard and 54-year-old Karen, were lifelong residents of Battle Ground, adding the two met each other in middle school. She said her parents were very involved with the American Cancer Society, particularly through the Relay for Life fundraiser. She added the family had multiple members who had cancer, including Karen Stoker herself.
Ashley Stoker said her brother was finally able to recollect what happened the morning of the crash, explaining that Travis Stoker had hydroplaned on Interstate 5 and ended up in a ditch. According to a report from the Washington State Patrol, the Stokers’ vehicle was parked on the northbound shoulder at mile marker 45 along with a tow truck which was parked in front of the Stokers’ vehicle with its emergency lights activated. The colliding vehicle, driven by Anna-Christie Ireland, of Longview, left the roadway to the right and struck the Stokers’ vehicle in the rear, also hitting the tow truck operator who was standing between the vehicles — Arthur Anderson, owner of Longview-based Affordable Towing, who also died.
Ireland faces three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault. She is scheduled for an arraignment in Cowlitz County Superior Court May 10.
The state patrol reported that drugs or alcohol are believed to have been a factor and is looking for additional witnesses that may have information about the collision, or the events leading up to it. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Evan Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (360) 688-3408.
Ashley Stoker said she hopes the ordeal will become a teaching moment to keep people from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
“You really got to think about your decision-making before you start up the car and start heading out on the road,” Ashley Stoker said.