CONCONULLY – An Omak man was killed and his wife injured when their vehicle went off Mineral Hill Road west of town on New Year’s Eve.
Cole Garcia, 45, Omak, died in the crash, said Okanogan County Sheriff Tony Hawley. His wife, Michelle Garcia, 46, Omak, was injured and was taken to Mid-Valley Hospital in Omak and later to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee.
As of Monday morning, Jan. 6, the sheriff’s office had contact with her family and she is still recovering from surgeries, said Hawley. She is in critical condition, but the family is optimistic about her long-term recovery, he said.
The road, an extension that runs into the mountains from Conconully’s Silver Street, was extremely slippery, with first responders having to wait an hour and a half for a sander so they could get equipment off the hill, said Fire District No. 9 Chief Tim Tugaw.
The Garcias apparently had been at a New Year’s Eve event and were heading back toward Conconully when their pickup truck slid off the road and tumbled about 300 yards down a steep hillside, said Okanogan County Coroner Dave Rodriguez. Both were ejected.
A person who had been at the same event and who was following them in a different vehicle saw the truck leave the road and stopped to help, Hawley said.
“The roadway was very icy and although the vehicles were going slow, it was challenging to keep control of the vehicle, according to a witness in a nearby vehicle,” said Hawley.
“The vehicle went off the roadway in a curve and overturned multiple times down the embankment about 300 yards from the roadway,” he said. “Both of the Garcias were ejected from the vehicle and located over 100 yards down the embankment from the roadway. All the airbags were deployed, and the seatbelts were not buckled.”
Hawley said there was no indication of alcohol or drugs being a factor.
Rodriguez said the person who stopped performed first aid on Cole Garcia, the driver, until help arrived.
“Weather conditions and the terrain made rescue efforts very time-consuming and dangerous,” said Hawley.
Tugaw said an ambulance and fire trucks from District No. 9, Conconully town department and Omak responded to Mineral Hill Road – above the accident scene – while others responded below the scene to West Fork Road, which winds along Conconully Reservoir.
Rescuers hiked out to West Fork Road with Michelle Garcia and she was transported to Mid-Valley Hospital by LifeLine Ambulance.
The sheriff’s office also responded.
Weather conditions prevented LifeFlight’s helicopter from being able to launch to Conconully, Hawley said.
Cole Garcia’s body was removed by crews on Mineral Hill Road.
Tugaw said crews were called about 9:30 p.m. and they cleared the scene at 2:30 a.m. New Year’s Day.
“We couldn’t get off the hill. It was too slick,” said Tugaw.
Although there are a couple homes and some cabins on Mineral Hill Road, Tugaw said the road is not maintained during the winter.
Rodriguez said he didn’t respond up the hill.
“The fewer vehicles, the better,” he said.
The Garcias own the Grocery Outlet store in Omak. He was an assistant coach of the Omak High School football team.
A gofundme.com account, The Garcia Family, has been started with the goal of raising $20,000. As of Friday afternoon, Jan. 6, $13,182 had been pledged by 111 donors.
In a social media post, the Omak School District said Omak High School and other agencies are coordinating services for those needing counseling support. Counselors were scheduled to be at the school when students returned to classes Jan. 6 after winter break.
“This breaks my heart,” wrote Alicia Connell on the district’s Facebook page. “He and his wife have done so much for our community.”
“I used to work for him at Grocery Outlet,” wrote Moses Robert George. “Honestly one of the best men I knew.”
In addition to offering prayers and condolences, several people offered good wishes for Michelle Garcia’s speedy recovery.
When Grocery Outlet opened last year, Cole Garcia said the business had been a lifelong dream of the couple.
“We’ve worked retail; we’ve wanted to own a store, but above all we wanted to help people, and we want to thank the CEOs of Grocery Outlet for giving us the opportunity to seize our dreams,” he told the opening day crowd.