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Kennewick woman charged in deadly Valley wreck

LOWER VALLEY - A 43-year-old Kennewick woman has been charged with vehicular homicide following an Aug. 10 automobile accident that resulted in the drowning of her 5-year-old daughter.

According to charging papers filed Aug. 13, Dawn Michelle Salmonson was driving her 2003 Nissan Xterra northbound on State Route 203 at approximately 11 p.m. last week on her way to Snohomish to visit her mother following a fight with her husband. In the back seat of the vehicle was daughter Destiny Mae Salmonson.

According to Fall City Fire Chief Chris Connor, the woman apparently left the roadway to the right, overcorrected her steering and veered into the Snoqualmie River to the left of the road. The car settled approximately 100 feet from the bank of the river in 19 feet of water, he said, near milepost 3 located north of Fall City.

Neighbors living near the crash site heard the woman screaming and called 911, Connor said. Two residents, a man and his daughter, entered the water to help, said Connor. The man was able to follow the driver downstream and helped the Kennewick woman to shore.

Fall City crews were the first on the scene and a search of the water proved unsuccessful in turning up the young passenger. Fall City crews were assisted by the Bellevue Fire Department, Eastside Fire and Rescue and the Washington State Patrol.

Divers from the King County Sheriff's Office also were called in to assist. While emergency crews searched the banks of the river, Connor said, the divers in an "amazing stroke of luck" located the SUV on their first dive. The girl, still restrained in the back seat of the vehicle, was removed and CPR was attempted. The girl, who had been underwater for 83 minutes, was pronounced dead at the scene.

"It was just too long," said Connor.

According to trooper Kelly Spangler of the Washington State Patrol, the woman attempted to get her child out of the back seat of the car, but was unable to complete the task because of water flooding the vehicle.

Authorities at the scene of the accident detected alcohol on the driver's breath, charging papers stated. The mother was taken to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue that evening and was booked into King County jail the following day.

Charging papers state that Salmonson admitted to consuming alcohol, stating that she'd had two beers prior to leaving on the trip. Although she had beer in the front seat with her, Salmonson claimed to have not consumed any along the way.

Blood was taken from Salmonson at 12:45 a.m. by medics at the scene. The analyzed blood evidence, according to charging papers, determined Salmonson's blood alcohol content to be .23, almost three times the legal limit of .08.

Salmonson faces up to 3 1/2 years in prison.

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