Freak Gas Station Explosion Kills Colorado Teen
Whitney Hendrickson, an 18-year old college student attending Grinnell college in Iowa, was back home in Colorado Springs celebrating spring break when she was killed in a freak accident at a local gas station. Miss Hendrickson had brought a college friend, Julie Podair, home with her and planned to show her the area. In preparation for a trip to a nearby popular hot springs, the two girls went to fill up Hendrickson’s minivan.
Hendrickson, who was gifted in photography and drawing, was outside filling up the tank at a 7-11 convenience story close to her family’s home when the driver of a Ford Explorer slammed into the right rear side of a Silverado pickup truck parked at a pump opposite Hendrickson. The force of the crash pushed the Silverado into the gas pump, which dislodged it from its base, spewing out gasoline, engulfing the minivan in flames. The pump pinned Hendrickson against her minivan, trapping her between the gas pump and her burning car. Podair, who was in the passenger seat and uninjured, made a desperate attempt to push the vehicle away from Hendrickson but she was forced to retreat because of the flames. Several other people who rushed to help were also forced to retreat from the soaring flames and smoke that rose more than 20 feet in the air.
Witnesses reported that the crash was followed by a series of explosions. They heard Hendrickson’s screams and saw her trying to protect her face from the fire. A health insurance broker working across the street ran over with a fire extinguisher but a fireman ordered him to move back just before the gas pump island erupted. Firefighters arrived at the scene within two minutes after the crash and quickly extinguished the fire.
The driver of the Ford Explorer, 29-year old Kelli McKay was shouting that her brakes went out. However, investigators at the scene ran a computer analysis and reported that vehicle malfunction did not play a role in the accident. McKay was cited on suspicion of careless driving involving a death, a Class 1 misdemeanor. She was served a summons after being treated and released for minor bruises.
Whitney Hendrickson is survived by her father, David Hendrickson, a Political Science professor at Colorado College, her mother Clelia DeMoraes, her twin brother Wesley, and a younger sister Marina. Miss Hendrickson was an honor student in Palmer High School’s International Baccalaureate program.