SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — An 8-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy died after the car they were riding in was hit head on by a driver going the wrong way on I-82 near Sunnyside Tuesday night.
The driver going the wrong way has been identified as Keith Goings, 20, from Springfield, Missouri.
Washington State Trooper Chris Thorson said an hour before the crash, WSP troopers in Ellensburg attempted a traffic stop on that same vehicle for going 111 miles per hour on I-90.
However, due to Washington police pursuit laws, the troopers had to stop the pursuit.
“Under current laws that the legislature passed, police officers are not allowed to pursue vehicles unless it's something felonious in nature or suspected DUI," Trooper Thorson said. "In this scenario, it was someone speeding really fast and that's all the troopers had for probable cause at the time. So they had to follow the current law and terminate the pursuit.”
Lawmakers are currently working to pass House Bill 1363, which would loosen restrictions on vehicle pursuits.
Thorson said about an hour after the chase ended, Goings was driving the wrong way on I-82 and at mile marker 65, just outside of Sunnyside, crashed into a car with a man and three children under the age of 10 inside.
Thorson said that driver, who was related to the children in his car, couldn't have stopped what happened.
“People don't suspect people driving the wrong way on freeways," Trooper Thorson said. "So there's really nothing really the victims can do differently. They're doing everything that they're supposed to do, and legally following the laws.”
The driver and a 5-year-old girl survived the crash and they were taken to a nearby hospital. They were later taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Their conditions are not yet known.
In the case of Goings, Trooper Thorson said there is evidence that points to what he calls the "million dollar question." Why does someone drive the wrong way?
“After the collision, we sent a drug recognition expert trooper to Memorial Hospital in Yakima to do an evaluation on the causing driver," Trooper Thorson explained. "It was determined at that time through an evaluation that drugs or alcohol were suspected.” He said the influence of drugs or alcohol could help explain what led up to the fatal crash.
"I would lean towards that's the reason they were probably confused and got on the wrong way on the highway,” he said. It could take several weeks before it is known if drugs or alcohol played a factor.
Goings was hurt in the crash and his condition is not known. It's not stopping authorities from looking at the legal responsibility.
“We're looking at potential felony charges here that include vehicular homicide and vehicular assault," Trooper Thorson said. "Of course, we're going to have to wait for the blood to get back in as filed charges but generically, that's what we're looking at right now.”
The two children who were killed were students in the Grandview School District. The district provided a statement on the crash to KAPP KVEW:
"Earlier this morning, the Grandview School District was made aware of an accident that took the lives of two of our students. Our GSD family is deeply saddened by this tragic news. Our thoughts are with this family and all those who are processing and grieving this immeasurable loss. More than ever, in times like these, it is essential that we lean on each other for support and strength. We are offering counseling services to our students and staff."
KAPP KVEW is not releasing the names of the injured, or the names of the children who died because they have not been publicly released at this time.
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Emily Goodell joined the KAPP/KVEW team in February 2019.
Emily was born in raised in Yakima, where she currently works as our Yakima Bureau Chief. She’s worked in nearly every journalism medium, but above all else, her passion is investigative reporting. At the Yakima Herald-Republic, Emily worked as a breaking news, city government and crime and courts reporter. She’s served as a city government and education reporter at the Ellensburg Daily Record, a freelance journalist for Yakima Valley Publishing and as Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Yakima Correspondent.
Emily completed a news reporting internship with Spokane Public Radio and an arts and culture reporting internship with The Inlander, an alternative urban weekly in Spokane, Wash.
She also covered censorship and freedom of the press issues facing student media across the nation at the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C. Emily graduated from Whitworth University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Mass Communication.
In college, Emily worked with her colleagues and researchers at Florida International University on a collaborative project looking at the experiences of women working as professionals in the communication field. Throughout her high school and college career, Emily competed in speech and debate tournaments at the regional, state and national level.
Emily is an avid traveler. Within the U.S., she’s visited 16 states and the District of Columbia. Outside the country, she’s also been to Canada, the United Kingdom and South Africa. While in Durban, South Africa, Emily was more than 10,000 miles away from her hometown — about as far as you can get.