Freak accident takes life of Westside college student

       An 18-year-old college student who grew up on the Westside died in a fire caused by a traffic collision at the 15th Street 7-Eleven gas island March 17.

Whitney Hendrickson

       According to the police report, the victim was Whitney Hendrickson, who had been pumping gas into her mother's minivan.
       Her family has owned a house on West Pikes Peak Avenue since 1990, and she had been in the International Baccalaureate program at North Middle School and Palmer High School (graduating last year) before going to Grinnell College in Iowa, where she was a freshman.
       A memorial service for Hendrickson is scheduled at Shove Memorial Chapel at Colo-rado College Friday, March 20, at 3:30 p.m. Her father David is a professor at CC.
       Police said a 2003 Ford Explorer coming southwest across the 7-Eleven parking lot “struck the the right rear side of a 2008 Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck that was parked at the gas pumps facing west. The impact forced the truck south into the gas pump, which dislodged it from its base and at the same time ruptured the fuel pumping system and spilled some gasoline onto the ground.”
       The pump fell onto Hendrickson, trapping her against the side of her 2000 Honda minivan. Shortly afterward, “the fuel that was spilled ignited, causing the ensuing fire,” police said.

The three involved vehicles remain as they were, and the scorched roof can be seen above the gas pumps outside the 7-Eleven at 15th Street and Colorado Avenue after the fatal collision/gas pump fire March 17. The car with the tarp over it is the Honda minivan which 18-year-old Whitney Hendrickson was filling with gas when the Explorer (right) smashed the pickup into a pump and started the fire that caused her death.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Although police and fire officers arrived within one to two minutes, it was not possible to extricate her in time, the report states.
       Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the gas island and two of the vehicles (the pickup and minivan). The effects of the blaze could be seen afterward around the pumps and in the overhang about 15 feet above them.
       The driver of the Explorer, Kelli Renae McKay, 29, of Colorado Springs, was charged with careless driving involving death, a class one misdemeanor. She was served and released on a summons to appear in El Paso County Court for those charges. McKay was also treated and released for minor contusions at the hospital.
       The driver of the pick-up truck, Noel Gebarra, 21, of Colorado Springs, was not injured. Neither was the passenger in the minivan, Julie Podair, 19, of Appleton, Wisc., Hendrickson's college classmate who was visiting Colorado Springs.
       Police investigators said they found no evidence of alcohol, drugs, or any vehicle malfunction that were contributing factors to the crash.

Westside Pioneer/press release