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Plateau 22-year-olds killed in Wilkeson, accident under investigation

A pair of Plateau 22-year-olds were killed Thursday when a late-night joyride in a piece of heavy equipment went seriously wrong.

Deceased at the scene – a forested area miles from civilization – were Jared Lanphear and Aeriel Strough. Lanphear was identified as being from Buckley and Strough was from Wilkeson; both had attended White River High School.

The story, as related by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, begins with Lanphear and Strough enjoying an evening in a local watering hole. There, they met a 35-year-old man who was in the area as part of a crew building a rural road outside Wilkeson. Over drinks, the excavator operator offered to take them for a ride. They traveled to the work site and the heavy machinery was fired up.

During the ride, the excavator went over an embankment and tumbled. The driver – who has not been identified – reportedly jumped from the rig and survived. He was able to walk to his car and drive to a home, where the resident called 911. The call was made at approximately 10:45 p.m.

East Pierce Fire and Rescue responded to the scene.

“They were located 10 to 12 miles from Wilkeson, up a gravel road near a logging camp,” East Pierce Assistant Chief James Jaques said. “Both patients were dead at the scene.”

The survivor’s injuries were treated by emergency medical personnel and he was transferred to an area hospital for evaluation.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the accident.

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