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Current, former Snohomish High students killed in wrong-way crash on West Seattle Bridge

Investigators believe the wrong-way driver was impaired at the time of the crash. An 18-year-old man and a woman in the other vehicle were killed.

SEATTLE — Two people were killed in a wrong-way crash along the West Seattle Bridge overnight Wednesday, while the causing driver is recovering in the hospital.

The Seattle Police Department received multiple 911 calls of a white pickup truck traveling the wrong way in the westbound lanes of the West Seattle Bridge early Wednesday morning.

Officers found a sedan and the pickup truck in the westbound lanes of the bridge just after 12:15 a.m. with extensive damage to both vehicles. 

Riley Danard, 18, and Khalea Thoeuk, 18, were killed at the scene.

Thoeuk was a 12th-grade student at Snohomish High School. Danard was most recently enrolled at Snohomish High School during the 2021-2022 school year.

The Snohomish School District sent an email to parents notifying them of the accident. The school district said the counseling team at Snohomish High School and additional mental health counselors will be on campus on Thursday and Friday to support students. 

Thoeuk was on Snohomish's youth council. Snohomish Mayor Linda Redmon, who works with the group, said, "Khalea always made time to be part of the Youth Council's meetings and events and was quick to share a smile and her ideas. I was heartbroken to hear that our community had lost Khalea and Riley, and my heart goes out to their family and friends."

The causing pickup driver was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. 

Investigators believe the male driver of the pickup truck showed signs of impairment. He is under investigation for vehicular homicide. 

Two different people reported the driver behaving recklessly before the crash early Wednesday morning. Lexi Fittro said she called 911 after witnessing the driver run into a pole and a car on Southwest Roxbury Street before proceeding down 35th Avenue. 

She and her Uber driver followed the truck for seven minutes before losing track of it due to smoke emanating from the vehicle and the driver's increasing speeds.

“The car was continuing to smoke, so it just got so hard to see him as his speed was going higher and higher,” Fittro said.

The owner of the car that the truck rammed into, Naomi Rivera, took a video of the driver traveling on the wrong side of the street and hitting her car multiple times. She also called 911 to report the driver. 

“By the time I got out here, they had already passed my car,” Rivera said.

Fittro said she was heartbroken to hear that the driver went on to cause a fatal collision.

"I honestly called my mom and I cried," Fittro said. "It broke my heart that my call wasn't enough to stop him, to maybe save someone else. It's been hard."

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 61% of fatalities in 2021 involved an impaired driver.

Washington Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD said these senseless crashes are on the rise, citing 117 alcohol-related fatalities in 2022, up from 98 the previous year and 16 so far in 2023.

“Our state right now has the fifth highest increase in the number of impaired driving fatalities in the nation," said Dennis Maughan, the regional executive director of the Pacific Northwest chapter of MADD. "We have been increasing for the last six years, our numbers are going the wrong way."

Maughan said the organization has been fighting in the legislature to make sure things like this don’t happen to anyone else.

“It's just you think about the horrible, rippling effect of the loss of these two young people to their families to the community," Maughan said. "Their loss of their pursuit of a regular normal life and for their parents and family. It will never be the same for them."

Both directions of West Seattle Bridge were closed Wednesday morning, but the roadway fully re-opened at about 6 a.m., according to the Seattle Department of Transportation. 

Traffic Collison Investigation detectives will lead the investigation.

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