Man arrested in fatal Arlington crash had 3 recent DUI arrests

An Arlington man died and his friend was injured Tuesday on I-5. Bail was set at $1 million for Ismael Cruz Sanchez.


ARLINGTON — A Burlington man appeared to be “on the nod” as troopers tried to question him Tuesday after he was suspected of causing a crash on I-5 that left one man dead and another with broken bones, according to police reports.

Ismael Cruz Sanchez was charged with impaired driving three times before his 21st birthday: in January 2020, June 2020 and September 2020. His lengthy rap sheet includes roughly 20 allegations of traffic violations, according to court records.

He’s accused of driving with a suspended license Tuesday in Arlington. The crash killed an Arlington man, 45, and sent a Stanwood man, 38, to the hospital.

Given his history, Cruz Sanchez’s black BMW was also supposed to have an ignition interlock device preventing him from starting a car until he passed a breath-alcohol test. The BMW didn’t have the device, the Washington State Patrol reported.

Cruz Sanchez, 21, was booked into the Snohomish County Jail in Everett for investigation of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, felony driving under the influence and three misdemeanors.

He was being held Wednesday with bail at $1 million.

Two disabled vehicles were on the right shoulder of northbound I-5 just before 5 p.m. Tuesday. The Stanwood man’s white Honda had broken down, trooper Jacob Kennett said. He called a friend.

The Arlington man came to help his friend, parking his red Dodge pickup in front of the Honda, Kennett said.

At the same time, Cruz Sanchez was driving at a “high rate” and making “erratic lane changes,” a trooper wrote in a report. The Burlington man is accused of hitting the Honda, pushing it into the pickup and hitting both drivers, who were outside their vehicles just south of Highway 530.

The friend from Arlington died at the scene. He hadn’t been publicly identified as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Honda driver from Stanwood was sent to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett with a broken leg and ribs, according to the police report.

The scene of a fatal crash on northbound I-5 in Arlington Tuesday evening. (Washington State Patrol)

The scene of a fatal crash on northbound I-5 in Arlington Tuesday evening. (Washington State Patrol)

Troopers reportedly found an empty bottle of Ciroc peach vodka behind the driver’s seat of Cruz Sanchez’s car. A witness reported seeing the suspect throw something on the shoulder of I-5, as well, according to police.

Cruz Sanchez told troopers his girlfriend was driving and hit another car while trying to swerve. He reportedly said he didn’t know how fast she was going.

Witnesses reported the driver was a man.

The girlfriend first claimed she was the driver before acknowledging she was the passenger, according to court documents.

In the report, the trooper noted Cruz Sanchez “could barely answer any questions and could not open his eyes.” He told police he was concerned about a vehicular homicide charge ruining his life. When the trooper told him someone died in the crash, the suspect didn’t react but was concerned about getting home, according to court papers.

A drug recognition expert from the State Patrol also tried talking to Cruz Sanchez at the hospital, but the suspect didn’t respond to the trooper’s introduction. He appeared sleepy without being given any medication, the police report notes.

When Cruz Sanchez did speak, his speech was slurred, slow and quiet. The drug recognition expert noted the suspect’s pupils were small. And his eyes would roll back in his head when examined further, according to court documents.

One trooper wrote in the report the suspect appeared to be “on the nod” as he moved back and forth in the hospital and moaned. At one point, the drug expert held up two fingers and asked Cruz Sanchez how many fingers he was holding up. He reportedly looked forward blankly and didn’t answer.

The State Patrol expert said the suspect showed signs of someone under the influence of drugs.

“In his current condition, he was certainly not safe to be operating a motor vehicle,” the trooper wrote in the report.

A sample of the Burlington man’s blood was taken for analysis. When Cruz Sanchez was booked into jail, staff reportedly found he had a device for inhaling drugs.

Kennett said the incident remained under investigation Wednesday.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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