Teens’ Death in Car Crash Pulls Ridgefield Community Together

Date: August 10, 2009
Location: U.S. 30, near Clatskanie
Names: Richard Michael Araiza, Jason Cary Carter, Aja L. Gerrity, Ki Young Kim, Dustin Evan Leitzell, Amanda Williams

The Oregonian reports a memorial and celebration of four teens who lost their lives in a accident that occurred earlier this month on U.S. 30.

Hundreds of people gathered together at Ridgefield High School stadium on Thursday, August 20, to celebrate the lives of Richard Michael “Ritchie” Araiza, 18; Jason Cary Carter, 18; Aja Leigh Gerrity, 17; Amanda Nicole Williams, 18.

It was an emotional event, one that highlighted the individual specialness of each teen. Three of the victims engaged passionately in student life, as members of the cheerleading team and drama club. The fourth, Ritchie Araiza, was known for his spirit and genuine nature that affected many.

The four teens were on their way to the coast on U.S. 30 near Clatskanie, for a post-graduation get-together when driver Aja L. Gerrity of Ridgefield attempted to pass another car. She lost control of the vehicle and slid broadside across the highway, eventually colliding with a van driven by Ki Young Kim, 55, of Vancouver. Gerrity, Amanda Williams, Richard Michael Araiza, all of Ridgefield, and Jason Cary Carter of Vancouver were pronounced dead at the scene. A fifth passenger of of the vehicle containing the teens, Dustin Evan Leitzell, of Ridgefield was taken by lifeflight with critical injuries to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland. Kim was reportedly taken to St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington, and is listed in stable condition. Three of the five teens were wearing seatbelts at the time of the accident, it is still under investigation if the other two were not.
As parents, we can barely fathom the great heartache the mothers, fathers and grandparents of Aja, Ritchie, Jason and Amanda are experiencing right now. Friends and family may want to turn back time and help the teens make better decisions. We hope that instead, such loved ones turn toward the future to promote driving safety not only amongst teens, but within themselves. We also hope that through this experience, students who are able to drive at Ridgefield High School and the surrounding areas take a second, third or fourth look at how they manuever their vehicle in town and on the highway. Awareness is one of many building blocks of safe driving.

Shulman DuBois, LLC, is located in Portland, Oregon, and serves clients in all Oregon cities and counties, including: Portland, Beaverton, Multnomah County, Hillsboro, Gresham, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Tualatin, Troutdale, Sellwood, Corvallis, Salem, Eugene, and Albany.