Not far north of Portland, a young woman long ago lost her life and at the same time, her identity. The truck accident victim could not be identified by officials after she perished in a fiery crash near Kalama.
She was buried in an unmarked grave that has remained undisturbed for 22 years. But officials exhumed her last week, hoping to finally identify her and return her to her family.
Investigators now believe that today’s technology will enable them to attach a name and identity to the woman known only as “Jane Doe” in death.
The coroner said his office has “worked on this one off and on” over time, but the moment has arrived for “the final big push” to ID the longest-running case of an unidentified person the Washington State Patrol has in its files.
The coroner said that when he was elected in 2006, there were five cases of unidentified bodies. When employees at the coroner’s office have had spare time, they have worked on those cases, resolving all but this last one.
The death of the woman in question is an aspect of her case not shrouded in mystery. She was a passenger in a tractor-trailer when it slammed into the back of another 18-wheeler on Interstate 5.
Both she and the trucker she rode with died in the ensuing blaze. The other truck driver escaped with just bruises and cuts.
However, authorities could not identify her.
They knew the trucker had begun that fateful trip in Missouri and then driven to Tacoma on his way to Portland.
Authorities believe it’s likely that his passenger was a hitchhiker, though even after examining the details of the trip and going over the path he drove, they cannot determine where he picked the woman up.
She’s estimated to have been between 5-feet 1-inch and 5-feet 4 inches tall and was somewhere in her early twenties. She had also apparently been treated for a spinal disease at some point.
A forensic anthropologist is now set to identify the woman’s ethnicity and complete a facial reconstruction that could well help investigators identify her.
Let’s hope this truck crash victim can finally be named and given peace and a place with her family.