Richland woman pleads innocent in fatal accident

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 13, 2014 

A Richland woman pleaded innocent Thursday in the death of a West Richland man in a June traffic accident.

Steven S. Covert, 50, was killed after his car was hit on Van Giesen Street when a driver under the influence of prescription drugs missed a curve and crossed into his lane, court documents said.

Natalie Michelle Lincoln, 33, is accused of being under the influence when she struck Covert's car, court documents said. His car spun around and was hit by another car.

The collision happened about 8 p.m. June 11 when Lincoln was driving a Ford Taurus from West Richland into Richland on Van Giesen near Kingston Road.

"The defendant told police that she looked down to adjust her cruise control. When she looked up, the collision was upon her," court documents said.

Covert later died at Kadlec Regional Medical Center, and his 15-year-old passenger and the other driver, Patricia Ammonet of Richland, were injured and also treated at the hospital.

Lincoln told police she has prescriptions for several drugs and had taken the stimulant adderall, muscle relaxant baclofen and antidepressant citalopram the day of the crash.

An initial drug test was positive for methamphetamine, but a later blood test showed only the muscle relaxant was in Lincoln's system. A warning label for the drug indicates that a user should be cautious when driving.

A state trooper who responded to the crash and put Lincoln through a field sobriety test initially reported she was not impaired, court documents said. However, additional testing and observations of Lincoln while she was being treated at Kadlec indicated she was under the influence, said prosecutors.

A trained drug recognition expert from the Richland Police Department also concluded she was impaired, court documents said.

"(The Richland officer's) conclusion was that (Lincoln) was under a combined influence of a central nervous system depressant and a narcotic analgesic and was unable to operate a vehicle safely," the documents said.

On Thursday, Lincoln was released without bail. Her trial on charges of vehicular homicide is set for April 21.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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