3 dead, officer injured in multiple crashes along I-5 in Lakewood

Photo credit: Washington State Patrol

LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- Three people were killed in a hit-and-run crash on southbound I-5 in Lakewood early Thursday morning, and the driver in the causing vehicle has been arrested, Washington State Patrol troopers said.

Troopers say an impaired driver was swerving across multiple southbound lanes around 2:15 a.m. when it struck another vehicle.

The victim's vehicle went into the jersey barrier, then into an overpass support column before flipping onto its roof. The impact also launched its engine block into the northbound lanes of I-5. Another vehicle traveling northbound hit that engine block. Nobody was hurt from that subsequent crash.

Two people in the victim's car were killed instantly in the crash, while a third person who was trapped inside the car later died.

The State Patrol identified two of the victims as Kelso residents: Jaime Pelayopelayo, 30 and Sherry Rodriguez, 44. The third victim was a 51-year-old man, but his name has not yet been released.

While state troopers attended to the fatality collision in the southbound lanes, DuPont police went to assist at the crash on northbound I-5. At the scene, a DuPont police officer's cruiser was hit by a semi-truck and wasn taken to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. The officer has since been released from the hospital.

Investigators say an off-duty Seattle Police Department dispatcher saw the crash and gave detailed information about where the driver fled, and when they found the car a few miles south of the crash site, the man was outside it trying to rip off its bumper.

The 23-year-old man suspected of driving the car was arrested on investigation of charges of DUI, hit-and-run, possession of a stolen gun, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, and three counts of vehicular homicide. He was also driving without a driver's license.

Originally police reported he had a woman as a passenger who was trying to tear off the bumper, but it turns out the man was alone and witnesses mistook him and his long hair for a woman.

All lanes of southbound I-5 were shut down for the fatality collision investigation, and multiple lanes of northbound traffic were shut down as well, creating a 10 mile backup northbound and a 4 mile backup southbound during the height of the closure in the morning commute. Northbound lanes reopened just after 7 a.m., while southbound lanes opened about a half hour later.

"We lost three lives this morning, so we're not going to cut any corners (in the investigation)," troopers said. "We're going to take it very seriously and make it a very thorough investigation."

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