• Renton man appears in court in connection with crash that killed tanker truck driver


    KENT, Wash. - A 21-year-old Renton man had his first appearance in court at the Regional Justice Center on Monday afternoon. 

    Prosecutors said that Steven Jamal Palmer drank alcohol and smoked marijuana before causing Sunday's fiery and deadly crash on southbound Interstate 5 at South 336th Street, near Federal Way.

    A judge found probable cause to hold Palmer in jail for investigation of vehicular homicide. He is accused of losing control of his black Nissan on I-5 and triggering a chain reaction of collisions that killed 68-year-old Joe Barkowski, whose tanker truck flipped over and burned. 

    Court documents show that Palmer was tested by a certified drug recognition expert after the collision. The expert found that Palmer was impaired. 

    Prosecutors say Palmer admitted to having a drink and smoking marijuana before the crash. They say he then tried to claim someone else was behind the wheel. 

    Palmer does not appear to have a significant criminal history. Only a couple of speeding violations were mentioned in court. 

    His bail has been set at $100,000. 

    Some of the 9,000 gallons of aviation gas that spilled from Barkowski's tanker truck were still burning on Monday afternoon. 

    Ben Nelson said the flames came within 100 yards of his home and destroyed appliances and other materials stored at the Belmor Mobile Home Park in Federal Way. 

    "We were really, really lucky that it happened in this area, and not somewhere else in the park," Nelson said. 

    The state said the environmental cleanup will take days. Contaminated soil and water will have to be removed, and dams were built to prevent gas and firefighting foam residue from draining to other areas.

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