State troopers responded to the scene, on Highway 20 at Minkler Road, at about 5:30 a.m. after receiving reports of a serious accident.
Two cars were found - one was overturned in the ditch and mangled beyond recognition, and the other sustained extensive damage.
Two crash victims were found dead at the scene. Two others were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with life-threatening injuries. A fifth victim died at a local hospital.
The three fatalities were later identified as Nicole A. Washington, 23, of Sedro Woolley; Frederick Brand, 65, of Concrete; and Megan L. Brown, 21, of Bellingham, whose family lives in Mount Vernon.
Brand was driving alone, likely on his way to work at Tesoro in Anacortes at the time of the wreck, said Cheryl Werda, a friend and neighbor. Werda said Brand was a father of three and practically inseparable from his wife, Minda.
"You definitely saw the support he gave her and it was fun to see them together," Werda said. "That's a big part of her that's going to be gone."
At least one of the victims was trapped and had to be extricated from the vehicle. Troopers say the group of four younger people were in one car and Brand was in the other.
Troopers found alcohol in the car belonging to the younger people and are looking at that as a possible contributing factor.
The tragic news is still tough to comprehend for Brand's friends.
"Accidents on Highway 20 are unfortunately not rare, but it really hits home when it's someone that you know," Werda said.
Quinnton Baxter, 22, and Alfredo Navarro, Jr., 19, both survived the crash, and are at Harborview Medical Center in critical condition, troopers said.
Baxter's father said Quinnton was father to a 3-year old girl and wasn't sure why his son was with the group Friday morning.
"He's a good man," said Michael Baxter, "and a good father."