Fatal wrong-way crash followed U-turn on 520
A Tacoma man suspected of drunken driving pulled a U-turn on Highway 520 moments before his SUV slammed into an oncoming car, killing the driver.
Seattle Times staff reporter
With a nearly empty bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky on the seat beside him, Michael Anthony Robertson made a quick U-turn on Highway 520 moments before his SUV slammed head-on into an oncoming car, according to King County prosecutors.
The force of impact was estimated at 100 mph. Thursday’s pre-dawn collision caused “catastrophic” injuries to 58-year-old Morgan Fick Williams, who died a few hours later at Harborview Medical Center, according to charging documents filed Friday.
Robertson, 25, of Tacoma, was in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center on Friday afternoon when he was booked in absentia into the King County Jail and charged with vehicular homicide. Bail was set at $1 million.
Robertson is scheduled to be arraigned April 18. If convicted as charged, he faces a prison term of 6½ to 8½ years, said Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
According to charging documents, Robertson had spent Wednesday evening drinking with friends at a Seattle club and was trying to get home to Tacoma. But instead of heading south on Interstate 5, Robertson took the Montlake Boulevard onramp onto eastbound Highway 520 and then made a U-turn “in one motion,” the papers say.
Williams, who was headed east, “had no expectation that a car would be driving toward her as she approached a right curve. The defendant came around the corner and slammed into her car with a closing speed of 100 mph” under the Montlake overpass, the papers say.
Williams, mother of two grown children, was on her way to work in Bellevue at Eddie Bauer’s corporate headquarters, where she was the manager of accounts payable. She had worked for the company for 32 years. A 1977 graduate of the University of Washington and an avid traveler, Williams was loved by a wide circle of family and friends and considered the person who kept them all connected.
Williams “was trapped in her vehicle with catastrophic ... injuries,” charging papers say.
Robertson was trapped inside his Ford Explorer with a broken ankle, according to the charging documents.
Two pedestrians heard the collision from atop the overpass and ran to help Williams, and a man who identified himself as a former firefighter tended to Robertson, the papers say.
When state troopers arrived, Robertson “kept trying to exit the car and ‘go home,’ ” King County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim wrote in the charging documents.
Investigators found the near-empty bottle in his front-passenger seat. Robertson’s breath smelled of alcohol, and he had “bloodshot, watery eyes and thick, slurred speech,” the papers say. Troopers say he claimed he’d had only two drinks and suggested that someone had drugged him, according to the charging papers.
Robertson’s blood was drawn at Harborview about 90 minutes after the 5:23 a.m. crash, and prosecutors are awaiting the results of toxicology tests from the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, the papers say. Freedheim wrote that test results are expected to show Robertson’s “blood alcohol content was significantly above” the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
According to charging papers, Robertson said he didn’t remember making the U-turn, which was witnessed by a husband and wife who were driving west on 520. The husband saw the crash reflected in his side mirror, according to the papers.
In December, Robertson was arrested in Tacoma for DUI after he allegedly hit another vehicle and drove away, according to a Washington State Patrol report released Friday in response to a public-records request.
Robertson, who was to stand trial later this month on the December DUI charge, allegedly rear-ended a car on a freeway offramp. After the collision, he put his vehicle in reverse and sped off, leaving his front bumper in the roadway with the license plate attached. A witness called 911 and followed his car, which was pulled over by Tacoma police, according to the WSP’s investigation report.
Both air bags in his car had deployed, and Robertson’s male passenger was found passed out in the front seat, the report says.
The woman whose car Robertson hit was able to drag his bumper out of the road, and it was later matched to the vehicle he was driving, the report says.
Robertson was allegedly so drunk at the time that he almost fell during a field sobriety test. His clothes were disheveled and his zipper was undone, court records show. He reeked of booze, made incoherent statements to the arresting trooper, and accidentally spit on the trooper’s hand as he tried to explain that he was “only partially intoxicated,” the report says.
Robertson told the trooper he had been drinking tequila that night. His breath-alcohol content was measured at 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit, according to the report.
In addition to the pending DUI case, Robertson had been cited for speeding five times — twice in 2009 and three times in 2011, charging papers say.
After his December arrest, Robertson was released from the Pierce County Jail and ordered not to consume any alcohol.
Freedheim wrote in charging documents filed Friday, “The defendant is a grave danger to the community who repeatedly drives without regard for others’ safety and cannot follow court orders.”
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org