Two Kent women died on Oct. 12 after an impaired driver, traveling west on state Route 18, crossed the centerline and struck a passenger vehicle head-on just east of Tiger Mountain Summit.
The suspect has not been formally charged as of the Reporter’s Monday deadline as he was taken to Harborview Medical Center in serious condition. Washington State Patrol (WSP) has said the suspect will be booked into King County Jail as soon as he is well enough and the prosecutors are awaiting toxicology reports before filing charges, according to multiple reports. He was arrested for investigation for two counts of vehicular homicide.
All SR 18 lanes in both directions were closed for nearly five hours as WSP troopers investigated the scene.
The fatal crash is the latest of many along highways in King County this year and could have been prevented.
“This morning marked the 37th and 38th life lost on state routes and interstates in King County just this year, and eight people have been killed in less than a week,” wrote WSP Capt. Ron Mead, who commands District 2 including all of King County. “Far too often, these tragedies are entirely preventable and caused by people [who] choose to drive impaired.”
The WSP released a statement from Mead the day of the crash. Mead highlighted the increased number of DUI arrests this year, 2,699 as of Sept. 30, up 32 percent compared to 2017, and up nearly 50 percent from 2015.
“Clearly we have a lot of work to do as demonstrated by the six people [who] have lost their lives this week due to impaired drivers,” Mead wrote in the statement. “We cannot, however, do this alone. Impaired driving is a choice, and a choice that far too often leads to tragedy.”
The two victims left behind siblings Michelle Lao, 22, and Phillip Lao, 19. They asked for support and prayers through a GoFundMe page started within a day of the incident. The page, www.gofundme.com/inmemoryofmariaandjasmine, has raised $13,722 within three days and as of the Reporter’s Monday deadline, the campaign was well on its way to the $15,000 goal, raising more than $1,500 within an hour.
“It’s been a really tough time for the entire family,” Michelle Lao wrote in an update. “I was able to get some sleep last night so my head’s a little more clear, but my heart is still aching. There’s still so much that needs to be done, but seeing all the support that we’ve been getting makes it better.”
Mead encouraged drivers and riders everywhere to “make good choices” by not driving impaired or riding with an impaired driver.
“It is simply not good enough to warn people not to drive impaired, passengers have a choice to make as well. As was demonstrated in [a separate] tragedy last weekend, four lives were lost where passengers chose to ride in a vehicle with an impaired driver,” Mead wrote. “That is not only 38 lives lost [in nine months], but 38 families forever changed as the result of the loss of a loved one.”
The GoFundMe donations will go toward the victims’ burial rights in their hometown of Roseburg, Ore., according to the GoFundMe page. Additionally, the donated funds will help with legal costs for the eventual homicide case, and in supporting the victims’ family so they can take time away from work and grieve.
“I wanted to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for all of the kinds words, donations and for sharing articles/posts,” Lao wrote. “I hope my Sister and my Mom can feel the huge amount of love that everyone has for them and I hope they’re looking down at us with their beautiful smiles.”