ONLY ON KIRO 7: Repeat DUI suspect charged with vehicular assault

by: Amy Clancy Updated:

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The warnings of a speeding driver came in to 911 shortly before a horrific crash on I-5 in downtown Seattle:

"I need to report a driver that's driving at a high rate of speed," the dispatcher was told. "He was coming up behind me, like really fast, until he got right up on my bumper." "He almost cut a person off right in front of me."

Minutes later, prosecutors say 22-year-old Nicholas Parker Ellefson of Tacoma crashed his F-250 pickup into a BMW SUV shortly before the Mercer Street exit, gravely injuring the four people inside.

Even though the accident happened on Jan. 9, 2013, Ellefson has just been charged with three counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless endangerment.

According to documents filed in King County Superior Court, Ellefson had a blood-alcohol content of 0.14, nearly two times the legal limit, when he caused the crash just after 11 a.m. that day.

But KIRO 7 has learned Ellefson has another DUI case pending in Pierce County, plus multiple citations for speeding and inattentive and negligent driving.

Ellefson also claims that driving fast is his passion.

In a video he submitted for an online rally contest, Ellefson said he likes "to live life on the edge" and that "driving is really my passion, rally car racing is my dream."

But it was on busy and congested Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle, not a remote rally course, that investigators with the Washington State Patrol said Ellefson hit the BMW so hard from behind that the driver and three passengers suffered bleeding on the brain and fractured ribs.

One passenger suffered trauma so severe he nearly lost his legs, according to documents.

Immediately after the crash, eyewitness Chelsea Watson called 911 and called it "a really bad car accident."

That 911 recording and others were obtained by KIRO 7 Reporter Amy Clancy.

Other callers reported seeing Ellefson's truck speeding past them before impact.

Alicia Lewis told dispatchers: "I want to be clear: I didn't actually witness the impact. I witnessed the driver who hit the other car, I witnessed him driving erratically scary. It was really dangerous, how fast he was going."

According to charging documents Ellefson was driving 60 mph in traffic only moving about 35 mph because of a stalled vehicle, when he slammed into the BMW full of University of Washington employees.

It's what's another driver, named Shannon, apparently feared would happen when she called 911 six minutes before the crash: "I need to report a driver that's driving at a high rate of speed," she said. "He was coming up behind me, like, really fast."

The woman also told dispatchers the fast vehicle was "a Ford truck. It's a single cab and it's a kind, I think it's a blue and white stripe." She then reported a license plate number. According to police reports, that same truck with the same license plate belong to Ellefson, who was arrested at the scene.

He was scheduled to be arraigned in King County Superior Court Wednesday morning, but that court date was moved to next month.

That's also when his trial on the Pierce County DUI charge is expected to begin.

Clancy reached out to the four victims, but none of them wanted to comment about the charges. She also tried to reach Ellefson at his Tacoma home, but no one answered the door.

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