Families of Whidbey Island Crash Victims Reach $8.5 Million Settlement

Families of Whidbey Island Crash Victims Reach $8.5 Million Settlement

The families of the victims involved in a devastating crash on Whidbey Island have settled with the state. This resolution marks the end of a long and emotional journey for the local community. In a heart-wrenching incident that underscores the paramount importance of vigilance and responsibility in transportation systems, the state of Washington has agreed to an $8.5 million settlement with the family of an Everett couple killed by an intoxicated driver after departing from a ferry. This case highlights the devastating impact of impaired driving and raises significant concerns about the safety protocols and responsibilities of common carriers like the Washington State Ferries (WSF).

Case Background: What Happened on December 18, 2021?

On December 18, 2021, the lives of Sharon Gamble, 77, and Kenneth Weikle, 78, were cut short by the actions of Danielle Cruz, who, impaired by multiple substances, crashed her SUV into the couple's sedan shortly after leaving the Washington State Ferries (WSF) Clinton dock on Whidbey Island.

Earlier on the day of the crash, Cruz was involved in a minor collision on the ferry, which should have served as a warning sign about her fitness to drive. Despite efforts by WSF staff to address her condition, including physical interaction with her vehicle, she was allowed to leave the ferry. Moments later, she strayed into oncoming traffic on State Route 525, causing the fatal accident.

The events of December 18, 2021, were a tragic reminder of what can happen when safety protocols fail. The families of the victims sought justice through the legal system, leading to a settlement that represents more than just financial reparation. It acknowledges the deep loss felt by the community and underscores the urgent need for systemic improvements to prevent such tragedies in the future. This accident brought to light significant shortcomings in the safety measures of public transport services, including the WSF, prompting a call for change.

Legal Consequences and Questions About WSF's Role

The driver responsible, 39-year-old Danielle Cruz, was later found to have multiple drugs in her system, leading to a sentence of 17½ years in prison on two counts of vehicular homicide. Despite the severe legal consequences faced by Cruz, questions linger about the role of the WSF in preventing such tragedies. Following the incident, Cruz was found to have fentanyl, methamphetamine, Lorazepam, and gabapentin in her system.

In September 2023, she pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison. This legal outcome, while providing a measure of justice for the families of Gamble and Weikle, also casts a spotlight on the broader issue of impaired driving and the responsibilities of those who oversee public transportation systems.

The Whidbey Island crash exposed serious lapses in safety, and witness accounts reveal a disturbing sequence of events leading up to the crash. The driver was seen swerving across lanes and rear-ending a vehicle during her crime. The decision by ferry staff to allow Cruz to board the Issaquah ferry and exchange information with the other driver involved in the earlier incident, despite clear signs of impairment, points to a concerning lapse in the ferry system's duty of care to its passengers and the public. The attorney for the families views the settlement as a form of accountability and expresses hope that it will prevent similar incidents in the future.

The Failure to Prevent the Tragedy

The WSF's policy dictates contacting the ferry operations center or local police when an impaired driver is detected, yet in this instance, no such action was taken. Deckhands and a mate were able to awaken Cruz after several attempts but allowed her to drive off, a decision that had fatal consequences.

This tragedy has sparked a conversation about the measures to prevent dangerous drivers from accessing the ferry system and the broader issue of ensuring the safety of all passengers and the public. As alleged by the plaintiffs, the destruction of video footage of the incident by WSF adds a layer of concern regarding transparency and accountability.

With the appointment of a new WSF director, there is hope for a renewed focus on safety and preventive measures. This tragedy was a stark reminder of the dangers posed by impaired driving and the critical importance of vigilance and proactive measures by those in positions of authority, particularly in the context of public transportation. It also underscores the need for systemic changes to identify and address potential hazards before they can lead to loss of life.

Need Legal Assistance After a Car Accident? Let Robert Kornfeld Help

If you've been involved in a car accident, navigating the aftermath can be overwhelming. That's where Kornfeld Law can help. In addition to an extensive career as a car accident lawyer, Attorney Neil Lindquist has successfully secured over 35 million dollars for clients. Don't navigate this journey alone—let Neil Lindquist at Kornfeld Law provide the support and representation you need. Call (425) 657-5255 or reach out online right now to schedule a consultation.

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