Crime

Driver in fatal Road 68 crash admitted to drinking, police say

Fatal rollover site investigated as driver appears in court

Washington State Patrol investigators document the site of Sunday's fatal rollover at Road 68 interchange as suspect driver Juan M. Velasco makes preliminary appearance in Franklin County Superior Court.
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Washington State Patrol investigators document the site of Sunday's fatal rollover at Road 68 interchange as suspect driver Juan M. Velasco makes preliminary appearance in Franklin County Superior Court.

The driver of a car that crashed Sunday evening in Pasco is suspected of being drunk and may be charged with vehicular homicide.

People started calling 911 about 7 p.m. Sunday after a car lost control on a curve on the off ramp from Interstate 182 onto Road 68 in Pasco and flipped.

They said one man appeared to be seriously hurt and another man was walking around outside the car, according to court documents filed in Franklin County Superior Court.

A passenger, Noe P. Cruz, 37, of Pasco, was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, where he died, said the Washington State Patrol.

Juan Manuel Velasco, 35, of Pasco, told a WSP trooper at the crash that he did not know what had happened or who was driving, said court documents.

His eyes were bloodshot and watery, according to the trooper.

Velasco was not injured but was taken to Kadlec, where he then told investigators that he thought he was driving the crashed 2003 Acura four-door that he owned, according to court documents.

Fatal Acura Pasco
A passenger in this 2003 Acura four-door sedan was killed Sunday night when the driver lost control and it flipped, said the Washington State Patrol. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

Driver in the Franklin County jail

Velasco told police he had “a couple drinks,” but then he said he had just one cocktail, a Long Island Iced Tea, according to court documents.

He agreed to take a breathalyzer test, which registered a blood alcohol level of 0.099 percent, according to court documents. The state’s legal limit for drunk driving is 0.08.

Velasco was booked into the Franklin County jail late Sunday night.

Velasco Fatal Appearance
Juan Manuel Velasco, 35, left, make his preliminary appearance Monday in Franklin County Superior Court via video link with attorney Daniel Stovern on suspicion of vehicular homicide. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

On Monday, Judge Alex Ekstrom in Franklin County Superior Court found there was enough evidence to hold him for 72 hours on investigation of vehicular homicide.

Bail was set at $250,000.

Velasco was apparently driving west on the highway when he took the Road 68 exit, overcorrected and the car rolled, landing on its top, said the WSP.

Both men were wearing seat belts.

Senior staff writer Annette Cary covers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She’s been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.

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