State of Washington to pay $8.5M to families of 2021 DUI crash victims

Mar 15, 2024, 8:14 PM

Image: A Washington ferry pulls up to the dock on March 29, 2020 in Edmonds....

A Washington ferry pulls up to the dock on March 29, 2020 in Edmonds. (Photo: Karen Ducey, Getty Images)

(Photo: Karen Ducey, Getty Images)

The state of Washington will pay $8.5 million to the families of two people killed in a December 2021 DUI crash on Whidbey Island, according to one of the attorneys in the case.

Sharon Gamble, 77, and Kenneth Weikle, 78, were killed Dec. 18, 2021, when an intoxicated driver, Danielle Cruz, hit them with her car after leaving the Washington State Ferries (WSF) Clinton dock on the island, according to a report from the Washington State Patrol (WSP).

Earlier coverage: Ferry staff could have stopped deaths from DUI crash, lawsuit alleges

Attorneys for the families say the tragedy could have been avoided.

“What the crew do that day in waking up a driver they knew to be impaired was wrong and both families would still have their parents here today had that not happened,” family attorney Neil Lindquist said.

More on what happened Dec. 18, 2021

A lawsuit filed in 2022 alleges WSF crew members on the the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry route knew Cruz had rear-ended another car on a ferry and that other ferry riders were concerned she may be intoxicated. Multiple witnesses report seeing Cruz swerving and even rear-ending a car in the holding lanes on the ferry, which prompted them to report the incident to ferry staff.

WSF staff had to bang on her car and rocked it side to side to wake her. They then allowed her to drive off the ferry.

“When one couldn’t do it, they called the next, the next, the next … They were rocking her car, banging on the window,” Lindquist said. “Finally, when one person wakes her up (she was ordered) to drive off the vessel.”

Members of law enforcement said after driving off the ferry, Cruz crossed a center line on State Route 525 (SR 525) and struck an oncoming Mercedes, killing Gamble, later, Weikle.

More on state transportation: New ferries in Washington at least four years away

An analysis of blood taken from her after the collision showed she had fentanyl, methamphetamine, Lorazepam and gabapentin in her system, The Whidbey News-Times explained in its reporting on this case.

As part of the settlement, the state claims no liability.

Lindquist says the settlement represents accountability.

“The money represents peace of mind for those families and some hope that this will never happen again because it was really preventable,” Lindquist said.

Cruz was sentenced to prison in 2023

Cruz, a former Lynnwood resident who was 41 when she was sentenced, pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide in September 2023. Island County Superior Court Judge Carolyn Cliff sentenced her to 17 1/2 years in prison, which was recommended by both her attorney and the prosecutor as part of a plea bargain.

Paul Miller, Gamble’s son, addressed Cruz during the 2023 sentencing hearing, saying she destroyed many lives by her actions.

“I want you to know that my mother and Ken were the most special, most loving, caring people I have even known” Miller said at that time, according to the Whidbey News-Times. “I’m proud to call her my mother and Ken my best friends. You took them from me. You took all of that from me. You took Ken, who was the love of her life.”

Contributing: Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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