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Driver "laying on the accelerator" when SUV careened into Elliott Bay
Seattle Times staff reporters
Cameron Johnston and Roy Espiritu were the closest of friends and both loved to dance.
While Johnston, 20, performed regularly at Native- American ceremonies, Espiritu, 17, made his cousins and friends laugh with his break-dancing moves and rap lyrics.
The two friends drowned in Elliott Bay early Sunday after the sport-utility vehicle they were in soared past a 15-foot sea wall in the 1200 block of Alki Avenue Southwest and landed on its side in nearly 8 feet of water, according to authorities. On Monday night, families, friends and acquaintances of the two made up a crowd of nearly 200 who congregated only feet from where the vehicle crashed.
According to investigators, Espiritu was driving the Ford Explorer and Johnston was one of five passengers in the vehicle. Excessive speed and alcohol were likely factors in the crash, Seattle police spokesman Sean Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb said the Ford Explorer driver was "not just speeding, but laying on the accelerator." He said police on Monday could not estimate how fast the Explorer was traveling.
Monday at sunset, as Native-American drumming, prayers and loud sobs marked the gathering, teenage friends of the teens congregated around a makeshift memorial set up on the sea wall.
"There's a lot of differences here," said the man who led the prayer service, who would only identify himself as a Native American. "It's important to open our hearts."
Johnston's foster mother, Brooke Broussard, sobbed as she buried her nose in the neckline of one of his traditional costumes.
Johnston, a member of the Muckleshoot and Tulalip tribes, typically spent his summers on the powwow circuit, dancing on Indian reservations across the country, his foster parents said.
Juliana Espiritu, the other man's mother, said her son and Johnston had always been close. She said her son had recently started attending Bellevue Community College and that he wanted to become a nurse.
Four other males, all in their late teens and early 20s, were injured in the 5 a.m. crash. One was released from Harborview Medical Center on Monday and two others were in satisfactory condition, said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg-Hansen.
The fourth victim, Michael Bruch, 19, was in serious condition in the hospital's intensive-care unit, she said.
Jennifer Bruch said her brother was pulled from Elliott Bay by Mike Brady, an electrician who lives across the street from where the vehicle plunged into the water.
Jennifer Bruch, 25, said doctors had to pump salt water from her brother's system before performing surgery Monday to repair his left arm, which was almost severed in the crash.
"They're all really good kids — they just aren't all that smart all the time," she said. "I know they were being irresponsible ... but most times, he [Michael] is responsible. I want him to remember this for the rest of his life."
Though her family still doesn't know all of the details, Jennifer Bruch said it appears the young men were at a party earlier in the evening and were heading home to SeaTac and Tukwila at the time of the accident.
Broussard said her family also is trying to piece together the events that led up to the fatal crash.
Broussard, who raised Johnston from the time he was 2 years old, said Johnston — who had two brothers and three sisters — was the best dancer in the family.
"That was his gift," Broussard said of Johnston's dancing.
Juliana Espiritu said her son wanted to become a nurse because he wanted to help others. She said he regularly helped her by giving her money.
"He had a really big heart," Emery said. "He was a good boy caught up in the wrong scene."
Though funeral arrangements are pending, Broussard said a wake will be held for Johnston on Wednesday night, followed by a Thursday funeral service in Auburn. Johnston will be buried in the Muckleshoot's White River Cemetery, she said.
Whitcomb said the stretch of Alki Avenue Southwest where the vehicle flew over an embankment is known to officers as a hot spot for racing and speeding. In April, a 21-year-old skateboarder was killed nearby by a motorcyclist who lost control of his vehicle. The motorcyclist also died.
Over the summer, Seattle officers conducted 54 "emphasis" patrols along Alki Avenue Southwest in an attempt to crack down on speeders and impaired drivers, Whitcomb said. The results of the patrols were not known Monday, he said.
Seattle Times staff reporter Christine Clarridge and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company