CRIME WATCH FOLLOWUP: Driver charged in West Seattle Bridge crash that killed two people

(SDOT camera image from shortly after crash)

Two and a half months after two 18-year-olds died when a wrong-way driver hit them on the West Seattle Bridge, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has filed charges. 36-year-old West Seattle resident Delfino Lopez-Morales is charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of reckless driving. We have been watching court files closely ever since the crash, and just found the charging documents. In them, investigators say he had a blood-alcohol level of .14, almost twice the legal limit, three hours after the crash, and a THC level suggesting he had used cannabis within a few hours of the crash. Court documents add that an empty beer bottle was found in the truck he was driving. The two victims, Khalea Thoeuk and Riley Danard, both from Snohomish County and on their way to Alki to celebrate Riley’s birthday, were killed instantly. The charging documents say Lopez-Morales, driving a friend’s truck, was going 100 mph when he hit them. He was seriously injured and has been under medical care since the crash, at Harborview Medical Center until sometime in the first half of May, when he moved to rehab. Here’s the investigator’s narrative from the charging documents:

On 03-22-2023 at about 0017 hours, the Seattle Community Safety and Communication Center (CSCC) began receiving 911 calls regarding a wrong-way driver on the West Seattle Bridge, in Seattle, WA. The information provided was that a white 1980’s to 1990’s pickup truck was travelling eastbound in the westbound lanes with no lights on. At about 0021 hours, a caller reported a white truck had collided with a Honda and both were on fire.

Two witnesses/911 callers were stopped for a red light at Fauntleroy Way SW /35th Ave SW, the westernmost access point to the West Seattle Bridge. They reported seeing a white truck driving over the center curb that separated the eastbound/westbound traffic lanes and then proceeding the wrong way (eastbound) toward the bridge. The witnesses said that as the truck moved eastbound, it almost struck vehicles that were travelling westbound.

Four other witnesses/ callers, driving separate vehicles, were westbound on the West Seattle Bridge at various points reported encountering the wrong-way truck. Some of the witnesses/drivers had to take evasive action to avoid colliding with the truck. The witness’ speed estimate for the truck ranged from 70-90 MPH.

Seattle Police (SPD) and Seattle Fire (SFD) were dispatched to the scene. While SPD and SFD were en route, numerous motorists came upon the scene and tried to help the occupants of both vehicles. Off-duty SPD Officer Liliya Nesteruk #7489 was among the motorists. She used her police radio to notify the dispatcher that all the occupants were trapped and the vehicles were on fire. Officer Nesteruk noted that the occupants of the Honda appeared deceased, and the sole
occupant/driver of the Chevrolet pickup truck was breathing heavily.

Seattle Fire pronounced the occupants of the Honda deceased at the scene – Riley Danard (driver) and Khalea Thoeuk (front passenger), both 18 years old. Seattle Fire extricated the driver of the Chevrolet by cutting off its roof and doors. Ihe driver, later identified as Delfino Lopez-Morales via a Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) photo, was transported to Harborview Medical Center (HMC) with significant injuries to his legs. The DOL records showed his license status was “Not Licensed – Eligible”. Seattle Police Officer / Drug Recognition Officer (DRE) Jeffrey To #8467 was called in to assist with evaluating Delfino Lopez-Morales for impairment. Due to Delfino Lopez-Morales’ injuries and him being tended to by HMC medical staff, Officer To was not able to perform an evaluation. Officer To obtained a search warrant to seize Delfino Lopez-Morales’ blood for toxicological analysis by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) Toxicology Laboratory. The blood draw was completed at about 0321 hours, about three hours after the collision. Results of the WSP Toxicology Report indicated Delfino Lopez-Morales’ blood-alcohol concentration was above the Washington State per se limit of 0.08. The report stated ethanol was present at a concentration of *0.14 +/- 0.01 g/100mL (K=3, 99.77 confidence level). The report also stated a concentration of THC at *2.8 +/- 0.7 ng/mL (k=3, 99.7% confidence level).

Evidence at the scene indicated that this was a high-energy head-on collision that occurred in the middle lane westbound lane of the West Seattle Bridge, about a quarter mile east of the Delridge Way SW exit. The front of both involved vehicles sustained substantial contact damage as they were each pushed inward toward the passengers compartment. The debris and fluid trails indicated that Delfino Lopez-Morales’ Chevrolet pickup truck was travelling
eastbound (wrong way) when it struck the westbound Honda Civic. From the area of impact, the Honda Civic was redirected backwards about 113 feet before coming to rest in the left westbound lane. The Chevrolet pickup truck continued eastbound about 122 feet before coming to rest in the right westbound lane.

Video recorded from a Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) traffic camera showed the Chevrolet pickup truck travelling eastbound in the middle westbound lane of the West Seattle Bridge prior to the collision. The collision occurred outside of the camera’s view. The camera was rotated and caught some of the post-collision movements of the Honda Civic and aftermath.

Based on the evidence I have reviewed, I believe the proximate cause of this collision was Delfino Lopez-Morales driving in a rash and heedless manner, indifferent to the consequences while under the influence of alcohol. At the entry to the West Seattle Bridge from 35 Ave SW, he drove over concrete “C” curbing before driving the wrong way onto the bridge. He continued driving the wrong way across the bridge, past on-coming vehicles, until his vehicle collided with the Honda Civic. His manner of driving caused the death of two people in the Honda Civic. I would expect that a reasonably alert driver would have noticed on-coming vehicles and at least slowed down or stopped to reevaluate their driving.

Though there was much online discussion of where Lopez-Morales might have been before heading toward the bridge, including claims that he might have hit other vehicles, none of that – nor anything else about what preceded him driving onto the bridge – is mentioned in the court documents. The court documents say he does not have a felony record, and our research hasn’t found any either. With the filing of the charges, $250,000 bail was set for when he is booked; he’s not yet on the jail register. His arraignment is scheduled for one week from today – June 15th.

32 Replies to "CRIME WATCH FOLLOWUP: Driver charged in West Seattle Bridge crash that killed two people"

  • Bill Nye June 8, 2023 (8:02 pm)

    I wasn’t involved and don’t know the victims or the perpetrator, but this one shook me up. Beyond tragic

    • West Seattle Mad Sci Guy June 9, 2023 (12:53 am)

      Me too. I think about it every time I cross the bridge. I have a sister who died in a car crash and it found a place adjacent to that in relation to how I feel when remembering it. 

    • Elizabeth June 9, 2023 (12:07 pm)

      I feel like you. There has not been one trip on the bridge since the accident that I have not thought of that young couple and the horror that encountered them.  I also think about those who loved them

  • ~Hockeywitch~ June 8, 2023 (8:15 pm)

    This is good news… It doesn’t bring the kids back, but he’s being held accountable for what he did.. His actions that night were so very selfish… Rest easy Khalea and Riley  

  • Admyrl Byrd June 8, 2023 (9:22 pm)

    250k sounds very low.

    • Disappointed with our city June 8, 2023 (10:02 pm)

      Typical outcome for the broken system we have now

      • Nope June 9, 2023 (7:47 am)

        What do you think bail is? 

    • Jay June 9, 2023 (10:08 am)

      He should have no bail. He’s facing a double life sentence for killing two kids. This means he only has to come up with $25,000 to get let out and gain an opportunity to go on the run or flee the country.

      • moji June 9, 2023 (1:52 pm)

        Or, potentially, get drunk and do it again.

      • Rosa June 9, 2023 (8:17 pm)

        I agree.1000% I mean people that are accused of murder do not have bail set why would this be any different? I hate this system. 

        • WSB June 9, 2023 (9:04 pm)

          In some cases, bail is indeed set even for murder suspects. Usually much higher than this, though – seven digits.

      • A June 9, 2023 (9:58 pm)

        My friend was killed on his bike from the driver who was charged with dui who had multiple history of dui in Snohomish county and he got to be free for 3tears and when they finally sentenced him it was only for 80months. 

      • wscommuter June 10, 2023 (11:22 am)

        Actually, he is not facing “two life sentences”.  He is charged with “vehicular homicide – intoxicated”, which is an entirely different statutory crime than what folks think of when referring to “Murder, 1st degree” or such.  Looking at the scoring grid (with imperfect information , admittedly), it would appear that he is facing a standard range of 102-136 months (a point added for the Reckless Driving also charged, to get him to an offender score of 3).  Before people start yelling about that, understand that this standard range is set by the legislature – not by prosecutors or judges.  

        • WSB June 10, 2023 (11:29 am)

          In addition, while we’re talking specifics, each of the VH counts carries this addition: “And further do allege the crime involves the following aggravating factor and accuse the defendant, Delfino Lopez-Morales of committing said offense, and during the commission of the current offense, the defendant was driving in the opposite direction of the normal flow of traffic on a multiple lane highway, as defined by RCW 46.04.350, with a posted speed limit of forty- five miles per hour or greater; this allegation is under the authority of RCW 9.94A.535(3)(ee).”

  • Admiral-2009 June 8, 2023 (10:14 pm)

    Hoping the perp is behind bars for the rest of his life, both his victims are six feet under.  Anything less than life behind bars is an injustice. 

    Drunk/intoxicated drivers need to be held accountable and made to pay the societal cost of their bad decisions.

    • scott June 10, 2023 (10:25 am)

      Unfortunately he probably won’t be.  The penalties for vehicular manslaughter are woefully inadequate.  They don’t treat it as a ‘real’ homicide.  The sentencing range for a conviction of vehicular homicide in the state of Washington is now between six-and-a-half years and eight-and-a-half years. Other states typically have prison sentences from 3-10 years for vehicular manslaughter although the fines for the offense can vary tremendously.

  • C June 8, 2023 (10:24 pm)

    So, let me get this straight. Dude drives 100 mph the wrong way on a highway. Intoxicated. Kills two people. Being charged with homicide. And his bail is $250K? This is a joke right? 

    • Peter June 9, 2023 (6:28 am)

      Bail is based upon a number of factors including risk to society and flight risk, mate. He’s not going anywhere, except his hospital bed. 

    • K June 9, 2023 (6:51 am)

      Bail is a deterrent for skipping out on trial.  25k is a big deterrent for some people, nothing for others.  But which category they fall info depends on their finances, not their crime.  Bail is not the sentence for the crime.  

      • Jay June 9, 2023 (10:09 am)

        A double life sentence would be an adequate motivator for most people to skip out on that bail bond.

        • k June 9, 2023 (11:42 am)

          But it doesn’t mean they have the means to do so.

        • Neighbor June 9, 2023 (3:57 pm)

          Hard to skip without legs.

  • Admiral-2009 June 8, 2023 (10:37 pm)

    Bill Nye – Yes this one shook a lot of us up big time.  Two young people celebrating a birthday and due to a drunk/intoxicated driver had their young lives cut way to short.

  • Lola June 9, 2023 (7:28 am)

    It’s about time that he was charged.  I know they could not till he was out of the hospital, (another that needs to be changed).  This was a tragic accident that should have never happened.  They system should also be blamed since I think it was three people called or followed this man to try to stop him to no avail.  Such a tragic outcome.  We need to do better.  I hope he never gets out of prison.  I would think the people who’s cars he hit along the way would be able to sue him as well.  Thank you WSB for all the attention and investigative work you have done to keep us up to date on this case.  

  • anonyme June 9, 2023 (8:31 am)

    The bail system is just plain stupid.  You should be eligible or not depending on the crime, not how much money you have.  What this guy did went way beyond drug and alcohol-fueled bad judgment.  It is indefensible.

  • Deb June 9, 2023 (9:33 am)

    Thank you WSBLOG for tracking this tragic case and informing the community of the KC Prosecutors Office filing. Rest in Peace Khalea and Riley. 

  • Joe June 9, 2023 (10:39 am)

    I’m surprised at the 0.14 blood alcohol level. That’s like 3-4 drinks. While still illegal; it doesn’t explain his absolutely crazy behavior. I was expecting a lot more and/or heavy drugs to be involved.  And the $250K bail….really? Many people could come up with that up if they really needed to. 

    • Justducky June 9, 2023 (12:05 pm)

      Joe the blood test was taken almost 3 1/2 hours after he was taken to Harborview, so it was likely higher. I believe they average a person can process one drink in an hour, so add 3-4 more drinks to your estimate. 

      • Rosa June 9, 2023 (9:25 pm)

        Exactly. And alcohol also hits people differently. Some people can black out easily.

    • Eldorado June 10, 2023 (8:27 am)

      One beer accounts for about .02. Distilled Sprits about .03 per amount served at say… a bar. And when tested 3-4 hours after the tragic incident at BAC 1.4, (not including the additional marijuana he smoked,) you can bet the dude was pretty darn wasted. 

  • Lisab June 9, 2023 (9:23 pm)

    Thank you for relentlessly staying on top of this WSB. This was a shocking and violent crime and hope the driver doesn’t see freedom again in this life. Thoughts and prayers to victims and their survivors. This won’t be forgotten.

  • Working in WS June 13, 2023 (11:18 am)

    Thank you WSB for tracking this for so long and finally giving us a name.  I just want justice and peace for those kids and their families. Sounds like Mr Lopez might be sitting in a wheelchair for a while. A little pain and suffering might do him some good. 

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