Commercial flights resumed at the Yakima Air Terminal on Friday evening, though the air traffic control tower will stay closed after a car crashed into it, city officials said.
A driver speeding on West Washington Avenue about 3 a.m. Friday lost control at the curve on 24th near the airport, crashing into two transformers outside the airport, city spokesman Randy Beehler said. From there, the car went airborne and struck the side of the airport’s control tower a few feet off the ground, Beehler said.
Yakima County Coroner Jim Curtice said the 19-year-old man died Friday as he was being put on a plane at the airport for transfer to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He said the cause of death was blunt-force trauma, and that a toxicology test is being performed. Release of the man’s identity is pending next-of-kin notification.
A passenger was taken to Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital with extensive injuries.
Yakima County sheriff’s deputy estimated the car was going between 80 and 90 mph at the time of the crash, Beehler said. A tire that detached from the vehicle hit the control tower about 15 feet off the ground, a city news release said.
The crash and resulting power outage caused the airport to cancel commercial flights at the airport during the day Friday, Beehler and interim airport manager Jaime Vera said. The airport remained open for private and corporate flights, with pilots providing positions by radio, Vera said. A backup generator powered the air strip.
Power was restored around 2 p.m. Friday.
While flights resumed, the air traffic control tower will stay closed, the city said. Structural support beams inside the 49-year-old tower were damaged in the crash, Federal Aviation Administration inspectors found.
“Even though the tower cannot be accessed, flights are able to resume at the airport,” Beehler said in a statement. “Pilots can announce their locations to each other via radio. They are trained to utilize an airport even without the assistance of air traffic controllers.”
Vera said the loss of power also meant that the weather station in the tower was offline for a time.