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Freeland motorcyclist dies after collision; second driver arrested
Freeland resident Dennis Broce was killed July 25 when his motorcycle was struck by an SUV on Bush Point Road.
The driver of the Toyota 4Runner, 28-year-old Kyle O. O’Neill of Freeland, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide.
Officers at the scene suspected that O’Neill may have been high on marijuana at the time of the accident. Toxicology results are pending, but the case could become the first marijuana-related vehicular homicide case in the county since voters passed a initiative legalizing pot.
Initiative 502 set a DUI impairment level for THC for the first time. People with a THC blood content of 5 nanograms per milliliter can’t get behind the wheel.
Deputy Prosecutor David Carman explained that there are two “prongs” to the vehicular homicide statute. He would have to either prove that O’Neill was driving recklessly or impaired by drugs or alcohol. The DUI prong is more serious.
Carman said the new “per se” marijuana law should, hypothetically, make it easier to prove the DUI prong. He wouldn’t have to show evidence that impairment caused the accident, just the toxicology result. It’s very similar to the .08 alcohol law.
“It’s a new law,” he said. “It’s kind of being shaken out in court.”
The State Patrol reported that Broce was westbound on a 1993 Honda motorcycle on Bush Point Road at about 9:30 p.m. O’Neill, who had been fishing at Bush Point, was driving east in a 1998 Toyota 4Runner.
O’Neill turned in front of Broce’s motorcycle as O’Neill was attempting to enter his driveway.
Broce braked, but struck the passenger side of the 4Runner, according to the report.
Broce was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center and Hospital in Seattle, where he died from his injuries.
Sgt. Rick Norrie, a drug recognition expert with the sheriff’s office, was at the scene and reported that O’Neill had dilated pupils, which can be a sign of pot use, the report states.
In addition, officers at the scene smelled marijuana. A pipe loaded with suspected marijuana and a Mason jar containing specks of suspected pot were found in O’Neill’s vehicle, the trooper reported.
Based on the evidence, the troopers obtained a search warrant for O’Neill’s blood.
Carman said he probably won’t make a charging decision until the toxicology result is back.