The Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier killed Thursday in an accident on Interstate 5 was a combat engineer who joined the Army a little more than a year ago and was helping to bring home comrades returning from Afghanistan.
Pvt. Reymon Tolentino, 28, died from injuries he suffered when the driver of a van carrying 10 soldiers from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Lewis-McChord lost control of the vehicle on the highway.
Tolentino was in the van to help retrieve soldiers in the 14th Engineer Battalion who were returning from a deployment to Afghanistan. He was part of his company’s rear detachment, meaning he did not deploy to the war.
Five other soldiers were injured in the accident, one of whom remains in serious but stable condition, Lewis-McChord’s 7th Infantry Division reported on Saturday.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Pvt. Tolentino’s family and friends in the midst of this tragedy,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Brown, commander, 14th Engineer Battalion. “Our focus now is on caring for the injured and supporting the Soldiers’ loved ones.”
Tolentino of Niles, Ill. entered active-duty service in January 2013. He was assigned to the engineer battalion’s 22nd Engineer Clearance Company.
The company, nicknamed the Hooligans, has an assignment searching for buried bombs in Afghanistan. It hit the ground in November.
Sgt. 1st Class Che Pickens, the soldier who remains in the hospital, posted a photo of himself giving a thumbs up from his bed for his friends and family to see on the engineer company’s Facebook page.
“I’m OK Hooligans and families!” he wrote. “I’ve got a long way to go, but God willing, recovery will happen sooner rather than later.”
The cause of the crash is under investigation. The Washington State Patrol accident report says the driver struck a concrete barrier and a light pole about 4:30 p.m. Thursday near highway exit 123 in Lakewood. The vehicle kept moving and struck the concrete barrier a second time before coming to a rest.