2 killed in head-on crash near Bellingham

Editor's Note: In March, the Whatcom County Medical Examiner released its toxicology reports showing that there was no alcohol in the blood of Travis Holst. An updated story is posted here..

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - The Washington State Patrol says alcohol and high speed were likely factors in a head-on crash that killed two young men overnight in Whatcom County.

State troopers responded to the scene, just north of Bellingham on Highway 539 near Smith Road, at about 12:15 a.m. Tuesday after receiving a report of a serious crash.

A preliminary investigation found that a 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe driven by Travis Lee Holst, 23, of Ferndale was heading north on Highway 539 when it veered across the centerline at high speed, slamming into a 1997 Honda Civic heading south.

The driver of the Civic, identified as Brox Mitchell Browning, 20, of Lynden was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Holst was taken to the hospital with severe injuries. He died shortly arriving there. Troopers at the scene said they could smell alcohol on his breath, and investigators believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.

There were no passengers in either vehicle. The crash closed State Route 539 for several hours during the investigation.

"This is the last thing we wanted to see happen on New Years Eve," said Trooper Keith Leary after the crash. "This is a time for celebration - not mourning. Our hearts go out to the families of both drivers."