Taxi passenger killed in head-on crash near Tacoma

TACOMA, Wash. - A taxicab passenger was killed and two others in the taxi were injured when a pickup veered into their lane and collided with them early Tuesday east of Tacoma, the Washington State Patrol reports.

State troopers said alcohol and drugs were believed to be a factor in the crash, and the pickup driver was booked into jail.

Troopers and medics responded to the scene, on Highway 167 just south of 44th Street East, just after midnight after receiving a report of a serious crash.

Arriving at the crash scene, they found a Tacoma couple had been riding as passengers in the taxi, a 2007 Chevy minivan.

The woman, who was riding in the back of the taxi, was killed in the crash. She was later identified as Shanna L. Huttenstine, 34, of Tacoma. Her boyfriend, a 36-year-old Jason Speers, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital for treatment of injuries.

Beside himself and unable to sleep since the midnight crash, Speers can't stop beating himself up. Shanna, known as DJ to her friends, sat behind the cabbie so Jason could have more leg room.

"It should have been me sitting on that side, it's obviously should have been," he said.

The driver of the taxi, a 52-year-old Seattle man, was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital for treatment of severe injuries, and he has been in and out of surgery all morning.

The driver of the Dodge pickup, a 48-year-old Puyallup man, sustained minor injuries that did not require hospitalization.

A preliminary investigation found that the pickup was heading north on Highway 167, also known as River Road East, when it crossed into the southbound lane as the taxi was approaching from the opposite direction.

The taxi driver swerved to avoid the pickup but was struck on the front driver's side in a glancing head-on crash.

"We see this far too many times when someone makes the decision to get behind a wheel and drive a motor vehicle while impaired," said Trooper Guy Gill at the crash scene. "These are the tragedies that can happen."

The drivers and passengers were all wearing seat belts.