Investigation determines marijuana, speed factors in July crash that killed three teens

Photo of crash scene, courtesy Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office.

Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office detectives have completed their investigation into a vehicle collision that killed three teen and seriously injured a fourth.

The incident occurred on July 26, 2017 in the 16900 block of Alderwood Mall Parkway. The vehicle with the teens inside was traveling northbound on Alderwood Mall Parkway at 4 a.m. when it struck and drove underneath an illegally parked semi tractor trailer.

According to the detective’s narrative, at the time of the crash the driver of the vehicle was under the influence of marijuana at a level over the legal limit for adults. The collision also occurred within the first six months of the driver receiving his intermediate license. It is illegal for drivers with an intermediate license to have passengers under age 20 in a vehicle and to drive between the hours of 1-5 a.m.

A second factor is that the semi tractor trailer was parked in a legal parking zone, but facing the wrong way. If the trailer had been facing the correct direction, the vehicle would have struck the bumper rather than under-riding the trailer, according to detectives.

A parking infraction for the owner of the trailer has been completed and will be mailed by the court.

Evidence examined by detectives also demonstrated that speed was another factor contributing to the collision. It was calculated that the vehicle was traveling 56 mph just prior to the crash.

The full detective’s narrative is below:

There are several key factors involved in this collision that resulted in the death of three teenagers. The most obvious and concerning factor is impairment through drug usage by the driver. A blood sample taken from the driver showed that at the time of the collision he was under the influence of THC and had a level of 6.8 ng/mL. This is significant because the legal limit for persons under twenty-one is 0.00 while persons over twenty-one have a legal limit of 5 ng/mL. In addition to impairment, the driver was speeding, inexperienced, likely fatigued due to the time of day and in violation of his Intermediate License. This collision occurred within the first six months of the driver receiving his Intermediate License while he was not allowed to have any passengers under twenty years old and/or drive a vehicle between 0100-0500 hours. Whether the driver fell asleep, was interacting with other passengers in the vehicle, changing radio stations, checking his cell phone or doing something else that caused him to drift off the roadway will never be known.

The factors listed above describe what may have contributed to the cause of the collision while an additional factor to consider relating to the severity of the collision is the parking position of the semi-trailer. Although the semi-trailer was parked in a legal parking area it was illegally parked facing the wrong direction. Had the semi-trailer been legally parked it is likely the driver’s vehicle would have struck the rear bumper/under-ride guard. Since the trailer was parked facing the wrong direction there was nothing to mitigate or prevent the driver’s vehicle from under-riding the trailer. Given the estimated speed of the driver’s vehicle it is unknown whether or not the rear bumper would have been able to withstand the impact to prevent an under-ride of the semi-trailer.

A parking infraction has been completed and forwarded to the court for mailing. The parking infraction was issued to Sanjiv Phambota for a violation of RCW 46.61.575 (1) – Additional parking regulations. This RCW describes the manner in which a vehicle is to be parked when parking upon a two-way roadway. The RCW states “every vehicle stopped or parked upon a two-way roadway shall be stopped or parked with the right-hand wheels parallel to and within twelve inches of the right-hand curb or as close as practicable to the right edge of the right-hand shoulder.”

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