Shortly after his Toyota 4Runner struck and killed two Ferndale teenagers, the driver fell asleep in the passenger seat of his car, needed to be shaken awake and seemed disconnected from the situation, according to charging papers filed Monday, June 15.
The Washington State Patrol trooper who made those observations concluded driver William J. Klein was possibly under the influence of drugs during the fatal crash, Whatcom County Superior Court charging papers say.
Klein, 34, of Bellingham was placed under arrest and has since been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts vehicular assault. He posted $200,000 bond Friday, June 12, and was released from Whatcom County Jail.
Four teenage boys were struck by the SUV about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 10. Shane L. Ormiston, 18, and Gabriel L. Anderson, 15, both died at the scene. Michael A. Brewster and Kole A. Randall, both 17, suffered severe leg fractures. All four were Windward High School students who were on a walk along West Smith Road during P.E. Class.
Troopers said Klein admitted he fell asleep at the wheel and woke up after his 4Runner veered three feet onto the sidewalk and struck the students, according to charges.
A state patrol drug recognition expert arrived about 1 1/2 hours later and found Klein “curled up in the passenger’s seat apparently asleep,” before shaking him to wake him up, charging papers say. The trooper said Klein’s eyes appeared watery and bloodshot.
Klein told the trooper he smoked marijuana daily but had not yet that day, charges say, although initial statements from the state patrol suggested Klein admitted he was impaired at the time of the crash.
“We believe he is impaired by drugs, I’ll keep it generic like that, and initially by his admission,” state patrol spokesman Mark Francis told reporters the day of Klein’s arrest.
Prosecuting and defense attorneys clarified the next day that Klein did not admit he was impaired during the crash.
On Monday, June 15, Francis said the state patrol’s statement has always been that Klein admitted he used drugs, but “I never gave a time frame.” He said troopers still believed Klein was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash based on his behavior.
The drug recognition expert noticed Klein’s speech was slow, and that “there seemed to be a disconnection between Mr. Klein’s behavior and what had occurred as the result of his driving. He did not seem to be reacting to the horrible collision that had caused the death of two young men and seriously injured two others,” charges say.
Results of blood samples taken at 4:19 p.m. the day of the crash are expected in the coming weeks.
Reach Wilson Criscione at 360-756-2803 or email@example.com.