Clallam: Fatal crash in Gardiner still under investigation

GARDINER — A man killed Saturday evening in a one-car crash rollover on U.S. Highway 101 was identified by the State Patrol as Michael D. Benefiel, 45, of Port Angeles.

Benefiel was ejected from his 1987 Ford Bronco on Highway 101 near Old Gardiner Road and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The rollover crash occurred about 6:30 p.m. with dry road conditions.

State Patrol officials said Benefiel was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash.

A passenger in the vehicle, Molly J. Patton, 15, of Victoria was taken but not admitted to Olympic Memorial Hospital.

State Patrol officials identified the girl as Benefiel’s daughter. A report said she was wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash and suffereed only mnor abrasions.

The girl’ mother, who lives in Victoria, came to Port Angeles to take her back to Victoria.

Witnesses reported seeing a vehicle in front of Benefiel’s Bronco slam on its brakes, causing the Bronco to swerve and exit the roadway.

State Patrol Sgt. Patrick Pronovost said an investigation for the reported mid-size pickup is ongoing.

“It is really difficult because we have people saying it was a green, blue or gray mid-size truck,” he said. “We are investigating the reports.”

A witness, Mark Gilstad of Seattle, who was traveling east at the time of the crash, said he saw a pickup directly in front of the Bronco continue driving west after the Bronco crashed.

Pronovost could not say how many witnesses had come forward with similar reports, but confirmed that officials stopped several blue mid-size trucks and questioned their occupants after the initial reports.

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