Vehicular homicide charges filed in deadly tanker crash

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- Vehicular homicide charges were filed Wednesday against a driver who investigators say had been drinking and was high on marijuana before causing a crash that claimed the life of a truck driver.

Prosecutors say Stephen Palmer, 22, was impaired on Nov. 4, 2012 when he lost control of his Nissan Altima on I-5 near Federal Way and crashed in to a guardrail.

After Palmer and three passengers exited the car, a second car smashed into the Altima and came to rest in the freeway. Moments later, a tanker truck carrying several thousands gallons of jet fuel came upon the crash scene and swerved to avoid a collision, but ended up slamming into a barrier wall and burst into flames.

The truck's driver, 68-year-old Joe Bartowski, did not survive.

Investigators were originally told by Palmer and his sister that another car caused them to lose control, but others in the car disputed that story, according to court charging documents. A blood draw done three hours after the crash revealed Palmer's blood alcohol content was .065 and also showed traces of marijuana, prosecutors said.

Palmer is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 26.