Man gets 15 months for crashing car, leaving injured passenger

A Bellingham man was sentenced to 15 months behind bars Monday, July 25, after a drunk-driving crash in March left his passenger with broken bones and head injuries.

Wilfred Allen McLean, 24, pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and was sentenced before Judge Charles R. Snyder in Whatcom County Superior Court.

McLean was driving a green 1998 Dodge Caravan at about 9:30 p.m. on Friday, March 4, near Alderwood Avenue and Marine Drive in Bellingham when he crashed into a ditch, charging papers say. The van was on its side when Washington State troopers arrived. McLean ran from the scene, and Valentina Maria Arnold, 27, of Bellingham, was unconscious inside the vehicle.

She was later flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where she was treated for broken bones and severe head injuries before being released Monday, March 7.

Police caught McLean about an hour after the crash, charging papers say. Troopers reported he smelled of alcohol and slurred his words as he spoke. McLean, who had several prior DUIs, was required to use an ignition interlock system.

Wilfred Allen McLean, 24, makes his first appearance in Whatcom Superior Court at the Whatcom County Jail on Monday, March 7. He is charged with felony hit and run, vehicular assault, driving under the influence and circumventing an ignition inte

McLean was booked into jail on suspicion of driving under the influence, circumventing an ignition interlock, felony hit-and-run and vehicular assault. He was formally charged days later with vehicular assault and felony hit-and-run.

The vehicular assault charge stipulates that alcohol was involved in a crash that injures another person, said Christopher Quinn, the prosecutor. The felony hit-and-run charge was later dropped in exchange for McLean’s guilty plea to vehicular assault.

McLean and Arnold, who is the mother of McLean’s brother’s child, had told investigators she had been the one driving, Quinn said. But Arnold’s injuries, like her broken right collarbone, indicated she had been wearing a passenger-side seat belt, he noted. A witness who arrived on scene shortly after the crash and gave McLean’s description to 911 dispatchers told police McLean was driving, according to charging papers.

McLean will also serve 18 months in community custody, under Department of Corrections supervision following his 15-month sentence. The sentence falls in the center of the standard range of 13 to 17 months for vehicular assault.

McLean will also be required to pay restitution should Arnold file a claim against him. Quinn said he did not expect Arnold to file any claims.

McLean pleaded guilty to eluding a police vehicle and reckless driving in October 2011 — he led police on a chase through the Puget neighborhood.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan