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After tragedy, tranquility returns to Washougal swimming hole

Mike Fisher stood Sunday afternoon on the north side of the Washougal River, wearing flips-flops, a swim suit, sunglasses and a baseball hat while sipping a beverage. Less than two weeks earlier, and just a few steps away, two German tourists were mowed down by a Jeep Grand Cherokee that tore through Sandy Swimming Hole Park.

On Sunday, the only reminders of the incident were 12 flower bouquets placed on a chain-link fence at the edge of the swimming hole parking lot.

“I don’t see why that one incident should deter people from coming,” Fisher said. “Don’t let it kill the vibe of the place.”

The maroon-colored Jeep was headed east June 25 on North Shepherd Road in Washougal when it left the roadway and plowed through a chain-link fence on the west side of the swimming hole, 550 N. Shepherd Road. It then went down a 30-foot embankment and toward the Washougal River before striking Rudolf Hohstadt, 61, and Regina Hohstadt, 62, while they sunbathed on the beach, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

The Jeep then went up a berm and through a park sign before exiting the park to the east, according to Washougal police. David Croswell, 71, of Washougal was arrested later that evening in connection with the incident.

Jean French, who lives directly across the street from the swimming hole, was sitting on her back patio at the time. She heard the typical “boom” one hears in a car crash, but the continuing commotion confused her.

“It’s something I’d never heard before,” French said. “It sounded like a crash, but it didn’t. It was so horrific.”

Horrific is not a word commonly associated with the swimming hole. The tranquil setting features a stretch of river that can accommodate swimming, kayaking, fishing and other forms of relaxation.

But following the crash, police found tire markings, a partial front grill, paint chips, metal shavings and miscellaneous plastic pieces at the scene, according to court records. The following day, despite sunny skies, the swimming hole was largely deserted around noon.

No changes have been made to the park, according to Washougal Public Works Director Trevor Evers. The mangled fence was repaired and a sign and sign post were replaced after a few hours of work and a total cost of $250.

With cloudy skies and high temperatures just above 70 degrees, the parking lot held eight cars at 4 p.m. Sunday. Around that time Saturday, the lot was empty.

“I expect that there will be no change in use of the park once the hot summer weather arrives,” Washougal Mayor Molly Coston said in an email.

On hotter days, cars overflow the lot, parking three to four blocks away, French said, adding that she believes that trend will continue. “A lot of people enjoy that area. It’s a nice park.”

Croswell faces two counts of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of intoxicants and two counts of hit-and-run resulting in death. Police do not believe Croswell and the victims had ever known or made contact with each other before the crash.

A preliminary breath test taken nearly four hours after the crash found Croswell had a blood-alcohol level of 0.085, according to court records. Under state law, a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or greater is considered evidence of drunken driving.

Croswell is being held in the Clark County Jail on $500,000 bail and scheduled for an arraignment Wednesday.

As they have several times this year, Mike Fisher’s family enjoyed the swimming hole a couple days before the incident. On Sunday, his wife, Sarah Fisher, shrugged off the notion that recent events might change her mindset.

“It’s clean. It feels relatively safe. It’s just relaxing,” Sarah Fisher said. “I did hear what happened. I was pretty surprised.”


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