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Driver arrested after fatal accident Saturday morning

A 21-year-old Navy man was killed Saturday morning on North Whidbey when a pickup truck rolled on him in what the Washington State Patrol has deemed an alcohol-related accident.

Investigators arrested the driver, 25-year-old Robert Whelchel, on suspicion of vehicular homicide. Whelchel, an aviation structural mechanic with the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, made a preliminary appearance in Island County Superior Court over the weekend. The judge released him into the custody of the Navy.

Detective Scott Whitman with the State Patrol said the four men — all Oak Harbor residents and members of the Navy — were on their way home from a party when the accident occurred at about 2:15 a.m.

The State Patrol reported that Whelchel was driving a 1994 Ford F250 pickup eastbound on Frostad Road. Two passengers were in the back of the uncovered bed of the pickup while a third passenger was in the cab with the driver.

Whelchel turned southbound onto Dugualla Road, losing control of the pickup on the wet roadway. The truck left the roadway and rolled. The two men in the back, 21-year old Christopher Kadrlik and 20-year-old William Chitwood, were thrown from the pickup.

The truck rolled over Kadrlik and killed him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Whelchel, Chitwood and the third passenger, 23-year-old Michael Lavanway, sustained minor injuries and went to Whidbey General Hospital in ambulances for treatment.

Whitman said speed, as well as alcohol, appeared to be factors in the cause of the accident.

The Navy is holding a memorial service for Kadrlik at the Navy Chapel on base at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Navy Public Affairs Officer Kim Martin said Kadrlik was an AME airman, or an aviation structural mechanic, safety equipment, with VAQ-129. He was originally from Northfield, Minn., known as the town that defeated Jesse James.

Kadrlik enlisted with the Navy in June 2003 and arrived on Whidbey last April.

Martin said the fatal accident was “doubly painful” because the base just completed an “all-hands safety stand down” three weeks ago. About 1,300 sailors attended a presentation by the Washington State Patrol and Navy leaders about the dangers of drinking and driving.

“We try so hard to get the word out,” she said.

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