An 18-year-old Pasco High senior and his friends narrowly avoided what authorities said likely would have been a serious head-on collision shortly after noon Monday while racing on a rural Franklin County road.
Paulo Orozco was in the wrong lane and going about 90 mph in his Acura Integra on Foster Wells Road when he crested a blind hill and had to swerve to avoid crashing head-on into an oncoming truck, said Franklin County sheriff's Cpl. Jim Dickerson.
Three cars were racing, Dickerson said. Two were side-by-side and a third was following.
Orozco's car went out of control and flipped, landing on its roof. Police said a passenger in his car apparently jumped out and ran to one of the other cars, which sped away.
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The crash occurred at 12:05 p.m.
"We're just very lucky today that somebody didn't die," Dickerson said.
Tom Gladden, 42, of Benton City, said he was driving a hay truck behind the teens and feared the worst. He said he could see the pickup heading toward the teens and watched as Orozco "basically waited until he couldn't wait no more" before swerving.
The driver of the pickup also swerved to miss the teens, and Gladden thought for a moment that he was going to crash into one of the racing cars.
Gladden said it's common for teens to race on Foster Wells Road but they usually do it on a straighter stretch of road that has no hills.
"Where they were racing ... there a couple of humps and bumps in the road and they couldn't see the oncoming traffic," he said.
When he saw the truck heading toward the teens but knew they couldn't see the truck, Gladden said, "I figured I was going to come up on dead kids."
Orozco wasn't injured but did end up in the Franklin County jail on suspicion of reckless driving/racing. Another 16-year-old driver was cited for reckless driving and released. Deputies are looking for the third car that was involved.
Orozco's Acura and the 16-year-old's Honda Civic were impounded, Dickerson said.
Racing on county roads doubles or triples as summer approaches and students start to celebrate the end of the school year, authorities said.
"These flat roads ... are very common for racers. The problem is they're getting in that competitive mind, get to a hill and they don't back down," Dickerson said. "It's a high time when kids go out, going to senior parties, skipping school, and are out driving and racing.
"These kids just need to be careful this time of year and try to use common sense," he added.