Community

Bothell teenager dies in Kenmore car accident

Sean Hensen, 15, and Katie Brown, 16, visit a makeshift memorial for Nicole Lehtinen (left photo), who died as a passenger in her friend’s car after the vehicle struck a fence at around 6 a.m. Aug. 2. - Photos by Joshua Adam Hicks / Reporter
Sean Hensen, 15, and Katie Brown, 16, visit a makeshift memorial for Nicole Lehtinen (left photo), who died as a passenger in her friend’s car after the vehicle struck a fence at around 6 a.m. Aug. 2.
— image credit: Photos by Joshua Adam Hicks / Reporter

(Editor's note: This story has been revised to eliminate a mistake from the original version.)

Bothell resident Nicole Lehtinen died Aug. 2 as the result of injuries sustained during a car accident on 61st Avenue Northeast in Kenmore.

The 16-year old Bothell High student was a passenger in her friend’s 2000 Saturn four-door when the car drifted off the roadway around 6 a.m. and sideswiped a damaged chain-link fence located on city of Kenmore property.

An exposed pole from the structure broke through the vehicle’s windshield and struck Lehtinen in her chest. She died at Harborview Medical Center several hours later.

Investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the accident at the Reporter’s deadline.

King County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. John Urquhart said there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident.

Lehtinen’s family has mentioned to at least one media source that they want answers from the city of Kenmore.

Her aunt Joan Zefkeles told KING-TV: “She should not have been impaled by a piece of chain-link fence. She should have walked away.

“The fenced portion that they happened to hit had not been fixed.

“Somebody should have taken care of it.”

The city of Kenmore released a statement Aug. 6 acknowledging that it was aware a fallen tree had damaged the fence in July 2008.

“The damage did not pose an imminent threat to public safety,” the release said. “The city was in the process of reviewing bids submitted for its repair prior to the accident.”

Family, friends and curious passersby have been visiting a makeshift memorial set up in Lehtinen’s honor at the site of her accident.

Bothell resident Katie Brown, 16, was there Aug. 5 for her third visit. She had been friends with Lehtinen since the two of them were in the seventh grade.

“It just doesn’t feel real,” Brown said. “I just want to wake up and know she’s going to be around again, but I know she’s not. This is kind of my reality check.”

A man living less than a mile from the accident site stopped at the memorial, noting that he had been aware of the fallen tree for several weeks.

“I’ve seen it down for quite awhile, and I knew the fence was damaged, but I hadn’t noticed the pole sticking out,” he said.

The man wouldn’t reveal his name for fear of being involved in any potential lawsuits.

“Somebody needs to be held responsible for not fixing this fence,” he said. “It’s so sad — 16 years of age.”

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