Vancouver woman learns of husband's death while tweeting about fatal crash

The Columbian (Vancouver, Wash.)December 4, 2013 

In an achingly sad unfolding of events, a Vancouver woman unwittingly live-tweeted the fatal crash that killed her husband Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 205 near Salmon Creek.

After the collision was reported at 1:41 p.m., The Columbian started reporting the crash in the southbound lanes on Twitter based on emergency scanner traffic. Caran Johnson, using the Twitter handle @scancouver, responded to the tweets and started reporting on the crash as well:

The mother of two regularly listens in on emergency scanner traffic through an application downloaded on her computer. Wednesday afternoon was no exception. She expressed sympathy after the Washington State Patrol confirmed that one person died in the two-car collision near Milepost 33.

Then, she worried about her husband, 47-year-old Craig R. Johnson:

"I’m trying not to panic, but my husband left work early and he drives 205 to get home. he’s not answering his phone.”

“and he’s late.”

“@KF7PSC well he uses his bluetooth, so he would answer his phone. he also wasn’t feeling good so his work was concerned when he left”

“i’m a basketcase.”

“I just called his work and he was feeling faint when he left work. #panic”

She asked the state patrol’s spokesman, Trooper Will Finn, and The Columbian’s photographer who went to the accident site, Zachary Kaufman, for a description of the involved vehicles. At that point in the investigation, they didn’t have a description for her.

She asked how bad the traffic was on the interstate. The right lane of the southbound interstate was closed, along with the onramp from westbound Padden Parkway. Then, the Washington State Department of Transportation said the southbound interstate was backed up to 134th Street in Salmon Creek.

“how long do i wait for him to come home before I call the police?”

“and now my kids are home from school...”

“He’s the one I go to for things like this...”

And then, she found out from a pair of state patrol sergeants.

“it’s him. he died.”

Craig Johnson’s northbound Hyundai crossed the grassy median just north of Padden Parkway and collided head-on with a southbound Toyota pickup truck. He was declared dead at the scene.

A Life Flight helicopter was temporarily put on standby for the Tacoma woman driving the Toyota, Carol S. Shelley, 54. She was transported by ambulance to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.

After collision technicians carefully investigated the crash site for about two hours, the interstate and on-ramp were reopened. The cause of the collision is under investigation.

“We’re not quite sure what’s happened yet,” the patrol’s Finn said.

Fellow tweeters extended their prayers and sympathies to Caran Johnson, virtually grieving alongside her. An online fundraiser was organized Wednesday evening for Caran and her family.

In a 2012 interview with The Columbian, she said that she has been listening to scanners since college.

She acknowledged that listening to scanner traffic can be morose. As a naturally upbeat person, she tries to focus on the banter among police officers and off-beat news.

“It gets kind of depressing, especially when there are children involved,” she said in the interview. “I try and maintain a positive attitude.”

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