Soldier dies in accident in Washington state
A U.S. Army soldier originally from Skokie died when his shuttle bus crashed while returning from the Seattle-Tacoma International airport to his base in Washington state, officials said today.
Pvt. Reymon B. Tolentino, 28, was one of 10 soldiers aboard the 24-seat bus when its civilian driver lost control of the van about 4:30 p.m. Thursday along Interstate 5 in Pierce County, near Tacoma, according to Washington State Patrol spokesman Guy Gill.
Tolentino was assigned to help pick up the members of his unit who arrived at the airport after their deployment in Afghanistan, said Lt. Col. Joseph Sowers, spokesman for the U.S. Army 7th Infantry Division.
The shuttle was heading south just outside of Joint Base Lewis-McChord when it struck a concrete barrier and a light pole on the left side of the interstate, Gill said. The bus continued south, again striking the concrete barrier before coming to rest on the left shoulder, Gill said.
The shuttle bus was not equipped with passenger seat belts, Gill said.
Tolentino was unconscious when emergency crews arrived on the scene, Gill said. He was transported to Tacoma General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
A 34-year-old soldier from Texas was also taken to Tacoma General in serious condition, but is expected to make a full recovery, Gill said. Two other soldiers were transported to the hospital with minor injuries, Gill said.
Investigators are trying to piece together what caused the shuttle van to lose control, Gill said. Weather and road conditions are not believed to be a factor, he said, and the 66-year-old driver was not impaired at the time of the crash.
“We’re going to look at all options,” Gill said. “We just don’t know.”
Tolentino completed his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, according to an Army release. Attempts to reach his family were not successful.
He entered active duty as a combat engineer in January of last year, the release states, and was assigned to rear detachment duty for the 22nd Engineer Clearance Company, 14th Eng. Battalion, 555th Eng. Brigade, 7th Infantry Division.
During his brief military service, he received the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terror Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
“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 of the 14th Eng. Battalion, in the release. “Our focus now is on caring for the injured and supporting the soldiers’ loved ones.”