ARLINGTON — A driver who pleaded guilty to causing a crash on I-5 that left one man dead and another with broken bones was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison.
On the afternoon of Feb. 9 last year, Jason Vogan, of Arlington, was driving his Dodge Ram north on I-5 when he ran out of gas, according to court papers. He parked the pickup on the 10-foot-wide shoulder just south of Highway 530 to call his friend to bring gas.
The friend parked his Honda Civic behind Vogan’s pickup. The friend put gas in the Ram. Both men then stood near the front of the Honda when Vogan saw a black BMW coming their way.
“Oh, (expletive),” Vogan reportedly said.
The force of the crash into the Honda knocked both men into the highway, deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow wrote in court documents. The Honda was crushed to about half its normal length between the BMW and the Ram. When state troopers got to the scene, they couldn’t recognize what kind of car it was.
Just before the crash, several motorists saw the BMW, driven by Ismael Cruz-Sanchez, going 100 mph as he weaved around traffic. One of those passing motorists reportedly had medical training. She stopped to check on Vogan, who landed north of the crash scene. He was unresponsive. His pulse was weak and then it stopped. When medics arrived, they confirmed Vogan was dead.
Vogan’s friend was diagnosed with several fractured vertebrae and ribs, as well as a broken pelvic bone and fibula.
Cruz-Sanchez, now 22, was taken to the hospital. He had trouble keeping his eyes open. His face was flush and his speech slurred. When he was told someone died in the crash, he didn’t react, according to court papers.
A state patrol expert determined the suspect showed signs of someone under the influence of drugs. His blood was later found to have 1.6 nanograms per milliliter of THC, under the legal limit of five nanograms, and 20 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter, according to court papers.
In a 2021 study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, the average fentanyl concentration found among impaired drivers was 3.7 nanograms per milliliter. Common among all cases studied was “the driver was found unresponsive behind the wheel, the vehicle left the travel lane or roadway, and the driver was involved in a crash.”
Cruz-Sanchez, of Burlington, has a history of driving under the influence. He was charged with impaired driving three times before he turned 21: in January 2020, June 2020 and September 2020. His lengthy rap sheet includes roughly 20 allegations of traffic violations, according to court records.
In November, he was also sentenced to two months in jail for attempting to elude police in Whatcom County.
Given this history, Cruz-Sanchez’s car was also supposed to have an ignition interlock device, preventing him from starting it until he passed a breath-alcohol test. The BMW didn’t have the device, the Washington State Patrol reported.
Less than three weeks after the crash, prosecutors charged Cruz-Sanchez with vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. Since his arrest, he has been in custody at the Snohomish County Jail with bail set at $1 million.
Last month, he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while driving in a reckless manner in an agreement with prosecutors, who dropped the vehicular assault charge.
Under sentencing guidelines, the defendant faced between 8½ and 11⅓ years in prison. Darrow pushed for 10 years.
Noting his client’s youth, public defender David Roberson pushed for the low end of that range.
Superior Court Judge Marybeth Dingledy sided with the prosecution, calling the crash an avoidable tragedy.
“This is not the end of the world for you,” the judge told the defendant, “so try to make a better person of yourself so when you get out, you can enjoy your life.”
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; email@example.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.
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