The Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office has charged Montrell Tormel Red, 23, with three counts of vehicular homicide and failure to remain at an injury accident following a deadly collision on I-5 earlier this week.
“Marijuana is legal in Washington, but not when you’re driving,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “And texting and driving can be as dangerous as drinking and driving.”
According to witnesses, at around 2 a.m. on March 8, Red was driving a silver 2002 Nissan Maxima. He entered southbound Interstate 5 at Bridgeport Way, then attempted to make a lane change around a slower vehicle and lost control. Red crossed all lanes to the left and struck a green 1999 Honda CR-V also traveling southbound in the far-left lane.
A Washington State Patrol detective said the impact forced the Honda to the left, into the center concrete jersey barriers. The Honda rode up onto the center barrier and struck the center bridge support column, tearing the entire engine away from the vehicle. The Honda came to rest on its top across two of the southbound lanes. All three occupants of the vehicle died at the scene.
The Nissan driven by Red also struck the center barrier and sustained damage to the front and rear, leaving the rear plastic bumper guard dragging on the ground and flattening at least one tire.
Red did not check on the occupants of the Honda and drove off. A witness who is a Seattle Police Department dispatcher saw Red attempting to flee the scene and followed the defendant, calling 911.
Red eventually stopped and attempted to rip off the damaged rear bumper. State troopers arrived and took him into custody.
The troopers found a pill that appeared to be Xanax on his person and two jars of marijuana in the Nissan, as well as a handgun and ammunition. Troopers also noted that Red’s eyes were bloodshot and watery and that his speech was slurred, slow, and raspy. When told that he had been involved in a crash where three people had died, Red responded “I didn’t mean to.”
In an interview with detectives, Red admitted to smoking marijuana daily and taking Xanax to enhance his high. He admitted to smoking marijuana that morning and to taking several doses of Xanax throughout the day. He also admitted to receiving a text message and looking at his phone while he was on the freeway.
Bail was set at $750,000.
Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.