‘Heartbreaking’: Community mourns after 3 young children, driver die in fiery Auburn crash

AUBURN, Wash. -- Four people are dead, including three young children, after a car hit a pole in Auburn, flipped over and then erupted into flames.

Police are now asking for witnesses to come forward because they are trying to figure out why the driver in this case lost control.

Remnants of the fiery crash at 17th and R Street SE Thursday night were still evident on Friday.

Wally Cayou heard a loud bang and when he came out, he saw a car on its side and on fire.  Cayou didn't know it then, but the people inside the burning car were his relatives.

"Ah, it's just hard to talk about," he said Friday. "Later I found out it's family, it's pretty heartbreaking."

Cayou says a male relative had just picked up several of his kids from day care. He says four children were inside the car, but that not all of the children belonged to the driver.

"I've known him for years and watched him grow up," Cayou said of the driver, who died of injuries from the crash. "Very hard worker, very well-respected young man."

Cayou said the driver was not the type to act recklessly with his kids, making the single-car crash at the curve in the road a mystery.

"I recall ... he did have problems with seizures and stuff when he was younger."

Late Friday, Auburn police have drawn no conclusions on what caused the crash. But they do know there are no skid marks at the scene, so no evidence the driver tried to break before hitting a pole head-on.

"Maybe there was a medical condition, we are not sure," a police spokesman said. "And I don't know if that's something the medical examiner would know or not from an autopsy."

Police also don't know why the car burst into flames. When officers arrived, the car was fully engulfed with most of the passengers inside.

"If anyone saw this accident on 17th Street last night in Auburn, we would want them to contact us," the Auburn police spokesman said.

The driver, a 7-year-old, a 4-year-old and an infant are now dead. A 3-year-old girl is the sole survivor and in serious condition at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. Police say she may have lived after possibly being ejected from the car.

Cayou said he can't imagine the pain of a mother who just lost almost her entire family.

"You just don't know when your time is going to be -- you're here today and gone tomorrow," he said.

Cayou said the family was well-known in the Native American community in Auburn, but on Friday even people outside that community showed up at the crash site with flowers. One man left behind three angel figurines for the three young lives lost.

"Cherish every day, hug your kids," he said.