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Driver had THC in system when car slammed into parked semi, killing 3 teens

LYNNWOOD, Wash. -- Investigators say the teenage driver who slammed into a parked semi last year near Alderwood Mall was under the influence of THC at the time of the deadly crash. Three of four teens in the car, including the driver, were killed.

The crash happened around 4:00 a.m. July 26, 2017 on Alderwood Mall Parkway.  The car hit the semi with such force that it became wedged under the trailer and its top was sheared off.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the teens as Landon Staley, 16; Travin Nelson Phongphiou, 16; and Mikayla Sorenson, 15. All three were friends and students at Henry Jackson High School in Mill Creek.

Heartbreaking message from mother of teen killed in triple fatal crash

Snohomish County detectives on Friday said they completed the investigation -- indicating several factors contributed to the deaths of three teens.

"In addition to impairment, the driver was speeding, inexperienced, likely fatigued due to the time of day and in violation of his Intermediate License," the detective wrote. "This collision occurred within the first six months of the driver receiving his Intermediate License while he was not allowed to have any passengers under twenty years old and/or drive a vehicle between 0100-0500 hours.  Whether the driver fell asleep, was interacting with other passengers in the vehicle, changing radio stations, checking his cell phone or doing something else that caused him to drift off the roadway will never be known.

Read the report from the lead detective below:

"There are several key factors involved in this collision that resulted in the death of three teenagers.  The most obvious and concerning factor is impairment through drug usage by the driver.  A blood sample taken from the driver showed that at the time of the collision he was under the influence of THC and had a level of 6.8 ng/mL.  This is significant because the legal limit for persons under twenty-one is 0.00 while persons over twenty-one have a legal limit of 5 ng/mL.  In addition to impairment, the driver was speeding, inexperienced, likely fatigued due to the time of day and in violation of his Intermediate License.  This collision occurred within the first six months of the driver receiving his Intermediate License while he was not allowed to have any passengers under twenty years old and/or drive a vehicle between 0100-0500 hours.  Whether the driver fell asleep, was interacting with other passengers in the vehicle, changing radio stations, checking his cell phone or doing something else that caused him to drift off the roadway will never be known.

"The factors listed above describe what may have contributed to the cause of the collision while an additional factor to consider relating to the severity of the collision is the parking position of the semi-trailer.  Although the semi-trailer was parked in a legal parking area it was illegally parked facing the wrong direction.  Had the semi-trailer been legally parked it is likely the driver’s vehicle would have struck the rear bumper/under-ride guard.  Since the trailer was parked facing the wrong direction there was nothing to mitigate or prevent the driver’s vehicle from under-riding the trailer.  Given the estimated speed of the driver’s vehicle it is unknown whether or not the rear bumper would have been able to withstand the impact to prevent an under-ride of the semi-trailer.

"A parking infraction has been completed and forwarded to the court for mailing.  The parking infraction was issued to Sanjiv Phambota for a violation of RCW 46.61.575 (1) - Additional parking regulations.  This RCW describes the manner in which a vehicle is to be parked when parking upon a two-way roadway.  The RCW states “every vehicle stopped or parked upon a two-way roadway shall be stopped or parked with the right-hand wheels parallel to and within twelve inches of the right-hand curb or as close as practicable to the right edge of the right-hand shoulder."

The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office previously said it is legal for trucks to park trailers in the designated parking areas along Alderwood Mall Parkway, but that the trailer was not parked in the correct direction, as the front of the trailer was facing the direction of oncoming traffic. "That is a civil parking infraction," the sheriff's office said.