5 boys recovering after crash near Dayton

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 20, 2014 

Thorin Purviance dug his heels into the steep slope near the Tucannon River valley near Dayton, dreading he was going to find a dead boy.

A Toyota 4Runner was wrapped around a tree on the mountainside below Patrick Grade, a single-lane dirt road. One of the passengers, Marshall McKee, 15, was missing.

Purviance found the boy in a fetal position against another tree, 10 to 20 feet from the crash. He was struggling to breathe and had foam around his mouth. He had suffered eight broken ribs and two punctured lungs.

But when Purviance shifted Marshall, the boy's "eyes opened up and looked at me."

"I was elated to find him alive," Purviance told the Herald.

The 4Runner had run off the road, plunging 60 feet down the slope before hitting the tree and coming to a stop.

"If they hadn't hit that tree, they wouldn't be here today," said Marshall's father, Matt McKee of Pasco.

The boys had been out at Tucannon Campground, a popular campsite in the river valley, as part of a big camping trip with family and friends, McKee said.

Marshall and family friend Dustin Garrison, 13, along with cousin Tanner McKee, 16, McKee's other son, Mitchell McKee, 12, and McKee's girlfriend's son, Michael Simmons, 13, spent the weekend looking for fishing spots, with Tanner driving the 4Runner.

Purviance, his wife Andrea and their two young sons, all of Richland, were also camping in the area. They were three miles up Patrick Grade from the campground, as all the spots were taken when they arrived on Friday.

Andrea Purviance saw the 4Runner throughout the weekend and never thought much about it, she said. About 2 p.m. Saturday, she saw it headed up the mountain, windows down and music blaring.

Around 6:30 p.m., the Purviances were cooking some morels they'd found when Michael, covered in scrapes and bruises, came stumbling into their camp, begging for help.

"He ran into my arms," Andrea Purviance said. "You could tell he was running for his life."

Shortly after, Tanner made it to the camp. Purviance loaded them into his own 4Runner and drove off to find the other boys.

They found Dustin about 1 1/2 miles farther up Patrick Grade, on his feet but clearly dazed and staggering along. Mitchell was another half-mile up the road but appeared in good shape -- Thorin Purviance said the boy was doing jumping jacks in the road to make sure he was seen.

It took a while to locate the vehicle because of the denseness of the vegetation and the steepness of the hillside. Its roof was mostly crunched in, particularly over the driver's side.

After finding Marshall alive, Purviance went back up to his vehicle, pulled out a blanket belonging to one of his sons and wrapped the boy in it.

Purviance left the boys briefly to call for help on his cellphone, having noticed he had service on his way up the road. When he returned, Marshall had fallen down the hill a little further after struggling with the other boys when they tried to steady him.

Purviance spent the next hour holding Marshall and helping him steady his breathing.

"I basically treated him like my own son," Purviance said. "There were moments when I thought his little short breaths were going to be his last."

It wasn't until after Purviance called 911 that McKee learned something could be wrong. He and some family members were driving around for a fishing spot themselves when they were passed by a forest ranger truck with its emergency lights on.

"He stopped and we stopped and he asked if we knew where the accident was and I had this terrible gut feeling," McKee said.

Forest rangers, the Columbia County Sheriff's office and a local volunteer fire department helped treat the boys' injuries before they were taken to hospitals. They were taken first to Trios Health in Kennewick, where Dustin remained in good condition Tuesday afternoon. Tanner, Mitchell and Michael have all been released, though Michael has deep bruises on his back and Tanner's shoulder may need surgery to repair properly, McKee said.

Marshall was later taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. He will remain there for several more days, McKee said. X-rays show he still has an air pocket above one lung that must be removed, but he was up and walking a bit on Tuesday.

"He wants to go back to school," McKee said of Marshall.

For now, though, everyone in the McKee family is just grateful that everyone is alive and recovering. McKee is grateful to Purviance and all the emergency responders who helped his sons, relatives and friends. He's not the only one.

"The (McKee) family has found me on Facebook and has sent me hundreds of messages," Purviance said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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