EVERETT — Frank Blair will tell you Everett is a great city where he’s met some compassionate and caring people.
There was the firefighter who never left his daughter’s side as others worked to cut apart her wrecked car to reach her. Two Everett police detectives were endlessly patient with Blair and his wife, Carol. The officers kept the couple up-to-date on the investigation and accompanied them to court hearings.
Their daughter and her three friends were southbound on Broadway in 2010 when a drunken driver went the wrong way and smashed into them. Sheena Blair, 24, and Martin “Tony” Ramirez, 19, died in Everett. Luis Reyna and Marco Ortiz were seriously injured.
The city recently settled lawsuits with Reyna and Ortiz and the estates of the Blair and Ramirez. Everett agreed to pay out a total of $385,000.
Reyna continues to suffer medical issues because of the crash, his attorney Kyle Olive said. This settlement doesn’t fully compensate him, but it does spare him from a trial. Reyna lives in Texas and has two small children.
“We’re not vengeful people. This always has been about justice, not vengeance,” Frank Blair said. “We want our friends in Everett to be safe. We don’t want anyone else getting that knock on the door.”
That was part of the reason that the Blairs filed the lawsuit against the city. They believe the intersection at Old Broadway just north of the Evergreen Cemetery is dangerous.
The drunken driver missed the sharp right turn over the short bridge south of 41st Street and continued north going the wrong way.
The lawsuit alleged that the intersection is “unreasonably dangerous,” and has been the site of nearly two dozen crashes since 2001. The city has failed to install adequate traffic control devices, according to the lawsuit filed in 2013 in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Lawyers for the city placed blame for the fatal crash squarely on Camille Spink, whose blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit. Spink pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and assault, and in 2011 she was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Frank Blair said Spink is responsible for taking his daughter, but he’s also convinced that the intersection could be safer. He and his wife offered to take less money if it meant the city would make improvements.
“They weren’t willing to do that,” he said.
The city studied the intersection and concluded that there is plenty of guidance for drivers who use reasonable care, city engineer Ryan Sass said.
Everett does plan to replace signs there to comply with federal regulations passed in 2009.
The regulations call for scheduled maintenance or replacement to make sure the signs reflect headlights and are visible to drivers at night.
That work has been ongoing in north Everett and the city expects to begin replacing signs south of 41st Street this year, Sass said.
The lawsuit was meant to shed a little light on the interchange, not to make a pile of money, Blair said.
“This chapter closes but we are moving forward and continue to move Sheena’s spirt forward,” he said.
The Blairs worked with lawmakers in 2012 to enact longer sentences for DUI-related vehicular homicides. They are active with the Pierce County DUI and Traffic Safety Taskforce. Blair speaks to people convicted of drunken driving as part of the offenders’ sentences.
All their efforts don’t take away the pain of losing their girl, though. There’s no such thing as closure when part of your heart is missing.