KENNEWICK — Four Pasco men were heading to a Umatilla bar when the driver lost control, sending his car rolling through the Interstate 82 median east of Kennewick and killing a passenger, according to prosecutors.
Favian Castro, 21, had two black eyes and other injuries as he appeared in court Thursday on allegations that his friend died Saturday because Castro was driving in a reckless manner.
He pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to vehicular homicide. His trial is set to start June 13.
Castro's was one of two new cases in court Thursday stemming from a fatal crash.
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Christopher C.J. Berry, 22, also pleaded innocent to vehicular homicide, along with a second charge for vehicular assault. He faces a July 1 trial for allegedly speeding through West Richland, crossing into oncoming traffic and colliding with a motorcyclist who died of his injuries.
In Castro's case, a report first came in to police at 10:29 p.m. Saturday that a white car had run through the center median into the highway's westbound lanes and rolled. The 1994 Honda Accord came to a stop on the right shoulder, three miles east of Kennewick near Locust Grove Road.
According to court documents filed in Benton County Superior and District courts, another motorist told Washington State Patrol troopers that he was westbound when he saw the car coming through the median toward him. He told troopers he saw someone was ejected.
Michael A. Hernandez, who turned 21 just nine days earlier, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was not buckled up in the back seat and died from head injuries, an autopsy showed.
Trooper Marty Finan, one of the first officers to respond, noticed tire tracks in the eastbound lanes heading into the median and found Castro behind the wheel of the Honda, documents said. Finan reported he smelled intoxicants coming from inside the car.
Paramedics and firefighters also found Castro "clutching the steering wheel" and had to cut his seat belt to remove him from the car, documents said.
Castro was treated at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, then arrested and booked into jail Sunday evening. Also injured was Lucio M. Mendoza, 22, who was treated at Kennewick General Hospital for multiple broken bones.
Jose E. Carcamo, 23, only had a cut on his hand and left the scene with a friend, court documents said.
Carcamo, who was in the front passenger seat, told Finan in an interview that Castro was driving the group to a bar over the Oregon border. Castro was in the left lane of I-82 "when he started to drift to the right, then swerved back to his left and lost control of the car," documents said, citing Carcamo's interview.
Carcamo allegedly told troopers that the men "had all been consuming alcohol" and Castro was driving fast and "screwing around" prior to the wreck.
Castro's bail was reduced Thursday to $75,000 from $200,000 because he has no criminal history and will be living with a Tri-City relative while the case is pending. His parents also reportedly traveled from California to attend the court hearing.
In Berry's case, the Benton City man was driving 15 to 20 mph over the speed limit and either dozed off or turned to talk to his fiancee when his 2001 Volkswagen Passat crossed the center line on Kennedy Road, according to police and court documents.
The Passat hit a motorcycle driven by Joel Vance, 52, throwing him from the bike. Vance, who went by Joe, suffered leg, spinal and internal injuries, and died at a Spokane hospital.
His bike hit a motorcycle being driven by his wife, Lorri Vance. She was treated at Kadlec for a broken leg.
The Vances had been westbound on their bikes in the 4:40 p.m. crash, just west of the intersection with Bombing Range Road.
Berry told West Richland detectives he was driving 55 to 60 mph in the 40 mph zone, documents said. He claimed he had not slept the day before and "was dozing off every once in a while," but also reportedly told officers at the scene that he had turned his head to talk to his front seat passenger.
Prosecutors allege Berry was driving with disregard for the safety of others. He is out of custody on his personal recognizance.
w Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org