Driver says she was looking at cellphone just before fatal 1-5 crash

TACOMA, Wash. — A 78-year-old man is dead tonight, hit and killed on Interstate 5 in Tacoma as he got out to check a flat tire.

The woman who hit him told police she was looking at her cellphone right before she struck him.

It can seem so harmless. Just looking down at your phone or simply sending a text while driving. But investigators tell us that simple act ended in tragedy on I-5.

It happened near the 38th Street exit on Northbound I-5 just after 8:30 a.m. Monday. Kiyang Park, 78, had pulled over because he had a flat tire.

“It’s not a very wide shoulder,” said Washington State Trooper Robert Reyer.

Reyer pulled up to the scene several minutes later.

“The left side of his vehicle was parked very close to the fog line, which separates the shoulder from the right lane,” said Reyer. “And he stepped out into the right lane.”

What Park did not and could not know was that in that instant, a 29-year-old Tacoma driver was in the same lane.

“Unfortunately,” said Reyer, “she was holding a cellphone and looking at a cellphone at the time that she struck the 78-year-old male.”

Reyer dug into the statistics.

He said so far in 2021, there have been nearly 3,000 collisions on state highways because a driver was distracted. In 11 of those accidents, someone was killed. In 69 others, the people involved were seriously injured.

There was no breakdown on how many were caused by the use of a celphone. But doing so can land a driver in hot water.

“If the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that somebody, by holding a cell phone, by being distracted, was acting with disregard for the safety of others, vehicular homicide is definitely an option,” said Reyer.

KIRO 7 found what appeared to be a Facebook post by the driver. It was posted at 8:35 a.m Monday. The 911 calls about the accident began coming in five minutes later.

She is now being held at the Pierce County Jail.