TACOMA, Wash. -- Montrell Tormel Red, 23, was charged Friday with three counts of vehicular homicide and failure to remain at an injury accident after a deadly collision on I-5 early Thursday morning.
“Marijuana is legal in Washington, but not when you’re driving,” Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said. “And texting and driving can be as dangerous as drinking and driving.”
According to witnesses, at around 2 a.m. Thursday, Red's Nissan Maxima entered southbound Interstate 5 at Bridgeport Way, then attempted to make a lane change around a slower vehicle and lost control. Red crossed all lanes to the left and struck a Honda CR-V also traveling southbound in the far-left lane.
A Washington State Patrol detective said the impact forced the Honda to the left, into the center concrete jersey barriers. The Honda rode up onto the center barrier and struck the center bridge support column, tearing the entire engine away from the vehicle. The Honda came to rest on its top across two of the southbound lanes. All three occupants of the vehicle died at the scene.
The Nissan driven by Red also struck the center barrier and sustained damage to the front and rear, leaving the rear plastic bumper guard dragging on the ground and flattening at least one tire.
Red did not check on the occupants of the Honda and drove off. A witness, who is a Seattle Police Department dispatcher, saw Red attempting to flee the scene and followed the defendant, calling 911.
Red eventually stopped and attempted to rip off the damaged rear bumper. State troopers arrived and took him into custody.
The troopers found a pill that appeared to be Xanax on Red and two jars of marijuana in the Nissan, as well as a handgun and ammunition. Troopers said they also noted that Red’s eyes were bloodshot and watery and that his speech was slurred, slow, and raspy. When told that he had been involved in a crash where three people had died, Red responded “I didn’t mean to," a trooper said.
In an interview with detectives, police said, Red admitted to smoking marijuana daily and taking Xanax to enhance his high. He admitted to smoking marijuana that morning and to taking several doses of Xanax throughout the day. He also admitted to receiving a text message and looking at his phone while he was on the freeway.
Bail was set at $750,000