OCEAN PARK — The baby was sound asleep in his crib when the speeding Mercedes plowed into his bedroom at just before 9 p.m. on Jan. 11.
Six-month-old Grayson Cobb didn’t stir as the black car swerved off of Sandridge Road, snapping three small fir trees like matchsticks. It barreled across 240th Place and through his family’s front yard, before slamming into his bedroom so hard that it knocked the single-wide manufactured home off of its foundation. Inside, a dresser careened into the crib. The TV that had been sitting on the dresser became airborne and sailed right over Grayson’s head, but even then, he didn’t stir.
“I thought my children were dead,” Grayson’s father, Nick Cobb, 25, said. Grayson, and his sister, Cadence, 5, weren’t hurt. Their mother, Kelly Cobb, 20, sustained only a minor injury.
The family is now homeless. They’re staying with Nick Cobb’s parents while they look for a new place.
“We had it good here,” he said, earlier this week. “Anywhere else that we can find, rent is gonna be a bit more. And there’s nothing available.”
His stepfather Bob Hill owns the property. He said the wreck will cost him thousands in cleanup fees and lost rental income.
The driver fled after the crash, and police haven’t found him. At least two witnesses said they know who was driving the car. But two weeks later, the Cobbs say they haven’t heard from the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office deputy who is investigating the incident.
A home-wrecking crash
Nick Cobb stepped outside just in time to hear the sound of squealing tires. He looked up and saw the car crash through the trees, heading straight for his house.
“His headlights basically went towards the sky,” he recalled.
Cobb ran. Behind him, he heard the sound of a “horrible” metal-on-metal collision. On the back side of the house, a lean-to chicken coop toppled, crashed into the rabbit hutch, and injured one of the animals.
The impact destroyed the front and back porches, and split vertical seams in the walls.
Kelly Cobb was screaming inside. Her husband didn’t slow down to look at the driver as he ran toward the house.
“The front door wouldn’t open. …so I had to kick it in,” he said.
Kelly Cobb was sitting on her couch when she heard the squealing tires.
“All of a sudden, the entire house — I feel it move, and it throws me back into the wall, ” Cobb said. She watched, stunned as all of the kitchen cupboards and appliances suddenly slumped forward. Glasses, dishes, food and a whole bottle of vegetable oil spilled out.
“I just started screaming for my son,” Cobb said. She shoved the stove out of the way and cut her foot as she scrambled through the slurry of oil and broken glass on her way to the bedroom.
The combination of shock and relief overwhelmed her as soon as she realized that both Cadence and Grayson had slept through the crash. She was sobbing and shaking when Nick came rushing in.
“It was nuts,” she said. “I thought my son was dead. And I thought my husband had been hit because he had just walked outside. …It’s been a crazy January.”
‘The driver is gone’
Nick stayed long enough to check on the baby and comfort his wife for a minute, before heading back outside to take stock of the situation. He found his neighbor Anthony Cordero in the front yard.
“He just kind of threw his arms up,” Cobb said. “I asked him what was wrong, and he said, ‘The driver is gone.’”
Cordero told him that shortly after he helped the disoriented and “scruffy” driver out the car, the man told him, “I can’t be here right now,” and took off running north. Cordero said he was pretty sure the driver was Ivan Dwain Roane Jr., 45, of Ocean Park. Roane owns a home a few blocks north of the Cobbs.
A few people who heard about the crash on the scanner showed up. One man said he recognized Roane. Another said he didn’t see the driver — but he was pretty sure the car belonged to Roane. Deputies and an ambulance arrived after the driver took off, leaving the totaled Mercedes behind with a shredded Budweiser tallboy spilling beer all over the floor.
Thirteen minutes after the crash, Roane called county dispatch to report his Mercedes stolen.
As of Jan. 25, it still wasn’t clear whether Roane was the perpetrator or the victim. He couldn’t be reached for comment. Several phone numbers listed as Roane’s were out of service. A relative said she didn’t have his number. A few neighbors said he hadn’t been home for several days.
Pacific County Sheriff’s Office Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock said deputies have not located him.
No license, no problem
Roane’s Washington driver’s license has been suspended since he failed to pay traffic fines a decade ago, and he was allegedly caught driving recklessly at the end of last summer.
Public records show that Roane got his third ticket for third-degree driving with license suspended, or “DWLS3,” when a Washington State trooper pulled him over on Aug. 4. The trooper clocked Roane going 90 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone on State Route 103, according to the citation. During the stop, Roane acknowledged his license had been suspended since 2007. The trooper let Roane off with a warning for speeding but wrote him up for DWLS3 — a misdemeanor crime that is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, and up to 90 days in jail.
Troopers are taught to use the minimum amount of clout necessary to correct a problem behavior, so it’s fairly common for them to write a driver up for the more serious violations, and warn them about the lesser issues, WSP Sergeant Bradford Moon said. Moon supervises the WSP Naselle Detachment, which covers Pacific and Wahkiakum counties. Moon said that while the trooper — who had been on the job for less than a year at the time of the stop — had followed legal and generally accepted practices, a more experienced trooper might have handled it differently.
“I take opportunities like that to talk with them about appropriately enforcing the law,” Moon said. “This was a learning experience for the trooper and he has since decided to enforce similar circumstances differently, based on the conversation that we had.”
A couple of weeks after the stop, the trooper also sent draft documents for a reckless driving charge to the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office. The deputy prosecutor who was handling misdemeanor cases at the time did not pursue the charge. In an email, Prosecutor Mark McClain said she may not have pursued it because Washington courts have ruled that speeding, alone, does not necessarily amount to reckless driving. The trooper had not provided any additional reports about Roane’s alleged conduct, so a conviction seemed unlikely.
Roane appeared in South District Court on Sept. 21. He pleaded guilty to DWLS3. He was sentenced to a suspended 90 days in jail and probation for 24 months. Court records show that Roane agreed to pay about $480 that day but he left without paying.
Not one call
The Mercedes was still sitting in the yard at Hill Auto Body & Towing on Jan. 23. A rotting bag of frozen chicken, three tallboys, empty packs of Winstons, a sticky bowl from a marijuana pipe, empty packages for a gram of marijuana bud and a hash-covered joint and personal documents were scattered inside. Hill Towing owner George Hill said Roane called once to ask if his car was totaled. He promised to come pay for it, then didn’t follow up.
Bob Hill and the Cobbs are still waiting to hear from the investigating deputy.
“Not one call,” Hill said.
“I really wish they would get ahold of us, because I asked to be updated,” Kelly Cobb said.
Matlock, the spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said that he could not discuss an open case. He noted that investigations can appear to be going nowhere while deputies are working behind the scenes to find someone, gather information or secure warrants.
“We are still diligently investigating the case,” Matlock said. “… We feel sorry for the family. We want them to get some type of resolution and justice.”
‘We don’t have a home’
The Cobbs had to move out the night of the crash because with sagging walls and a floor that groans with every step, their home was no longer safe. In their temporary digs, Cadence sleeps on the couch while the other three share a tiny room. A neighbor is keeping their animals.
They’re grateful, but it’s hard on everyone, Nick Cobb said.
Bob Hill said he has another, newer mobile home he could put on the lot, but he’s having trouble figuring out whether it will meet the county’s requirements. He’s not optimistic that there will be any type of insurance settlement from the wreck that could help cover the expenses.
Kelly is currently studying to become a massage therapist, so the family lives on the income Nick earns as a laborer at Bell Buoy. It won’t be easy for them to find another affordable place with room for Grayson, Cadence, their cat, chickens and rabbits. They have a little money put away, but not enough to cover all the moving costs.
“It’s putting us in a bad position,” Nick Cobb said. “Money’s tight. It’s definitely not the thing that we were wanting to do right now.”
Standing in the front yard, watching her rabbit run back and forth across the lawn, Kelly Cobb said she didn’t fully realize how deadly the crash could have been until a consultant pointed out that only one support beam was still holding up the ceiling.
“I was thankful. I said, ‘Thank you God,’” Cobb said, “But we don’t have a home.”