Search near Sol Duc after wreck

Deputies consider woman at risk

Catherine Raya

Catherine Raya

FORKS — Law enforcement officials continued Wednesday to search for a woman who ran into the woods near Sappho after a two-car wreck on state Highway 113 on Tuesday.

Catherine Louise Raya, 40, of Mesa, Ariz., was not wearing a jacket or shoes when she ran into the woods at about 6 p.m. Tuesday. She is suspected of stealing a witnesses’ vehicle after the collision and later abandoning the stolen vehicle near Sappho.

“We are in preservation-of-life mode because she was not wearing a good deal of clothing per witnesses to the collision and the environment out there for a person who is not prepared for the conditions is dangerous,” said Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Keegan on Wednesday.

“Our concerns center on the [Sol Duc] River being so close to the roadway and whether she entered the river on purpose or by accident,” he said.

Raya, a Native American, is about 5-foot-6 and weighs about 160 pounds with brown hair and eyes. Witnesses described her as wearing a white shirt, a black skirt and no shoes or socks.

According to family members who live in Grays Harbor County, Raya recently arrived unexpectedly from Arizona and was acting paranoid, believing people were after her, Keegan said.

“We’re pretty sure we are dealing with a mental health issue,” he said.

According to a State Patrol memo, a 2013 Volkswagen Bug driven by Raya and a 2005 Saturn Vue driven by Neah Bay’s Hildred Greene, 42, were both traveling southbound on state Highway 113 when the Volkswagen abruptly turned into a pullout. The Volkswagen failed to yield the right of way when it returned to the highway and it was struck by the Saturn, the State Patrol said.

Greene was driving with three children younger than 18. She and a 13-year-old were transported by aid car to Forks Community Hospital.

Greene and the unidentified 13-year old were both treated and discharged, according to the Forks Community Hospital chief nursing officer, Kelly Thompson.

A hospital spokesperson said Wednesday that Greene wasn’t listed on the patient roster. No other information was available. Hospitals will not release information about patients when no names are provided, and the State Patrol did not release the name of the 13-year-old.

The roadway was partially blocked for 4½ hours, the State Patrol said.

Witnesses stopped to help in the aftermath of the collision and reported a woman involved was acting irate and trying to flee, eventually stealing a witnesses’ van during the chaos and driving south on state Highway 113.

A Clallam County Sheriff’s deputy deployed spike strips as the van drove past on Highway 113 near U.S. Highway 101. The van was seen traveling east on 101.

When the deputy who deployed the spike strips caught up to the van, it was found abandoned on Highway 101 about one-quarter mile east of Highway 113.

Sequim and Port Angeles police K-9 units, as well as officers with several different area law enforcement agencies, set up containment around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday evening and tracked the woman into the woods south of the abandoned van until 7:45 p.m. with no success.

“After the dogs could not locate her, we called the Clallam Bay prison and asked for their inmate recovery team, which is staffed with individuals with experienced tracking people,” Keegan said.

“That team tracked until 1 a.m. and came out again [Wednesday] morning and are currently searching,” he said on Wednesday.

“We also had a Coast Guard air unit pass over the area, and we are seeking another air asset for another search.”

If the public sees Raya or has any information about her location, call the non-emergency dispatch line at 360-417-2459, 9-1-1 or leave an anonymous tip on the Sheriff’s website at clallam.net/sheriff.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected].

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