2 killed, 2 injured as cars collide on Kent highway

2 killed, 2 injured as cars collide on Kent highway »Play Video
The wreckage of one vehicle is investigated by state troopers.
KENT, Wash. - Two people were killed and two others are in the hospital with severe injuries after a three-car crash early Sunday that may have been caused by cars racing or trying to match speeds.

State troopers and medics responded to the scene, on Highway 516 west of Meeker Street, just after 3:15 a.m. Sunday, said trooper Julie Startup.

Two of the drivers, a 25-year-old woman and a 57-year-old man, were found dead at the scene. The third driver, a 40-year-old Renton man, was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, where he is listed in critical condition and is under investigation for vehicular homicide.

In addition, a passenger in one of the vehicles was hospitalized in serious condition.

Startup said investigators are still trying to determine exactly what triggered the crash.

She said alcohol or drugs may have been a factor in the crash. A trooper also said witnesses reported that at least two of the cars were either "racing or trying to match speeds."

But the family of one of the victims disputes that. They say the 25-year-old woman, Amanda Berman of Yakima, was probably trying to avoid a speeding car when she was hit.

A preliminary investigation found that a silver Chevrolet passenger car driven by Berman, along with a Honda SUV and red Honda Civic, were all traveling west on State Route 516 when they collided.

According to initial reports, the Honda Civic and the Chevrolet were both traveling in the same lane, with the Chevy in front.

Something caused Berman to lose control of the Chevrolet. She swerved and slammed into the SUV in the adjacent lane. The Civic then crashed into them.

Berman died from her injuries. Her boyfriend, a 28-year-old Fife man, was riding as a passenger and was seriously injured.

The Honda SUV driver, 57-year-old Jose Cuellar of Kent, also died from his injuries. He was not wearing a seat belt.

The 40-year-old Renton man who was driving the Honda Civic was not wearing a seat belt and was critically injured when his vehicle struck the Chevrolet. He is under investigation for vehicular homicide.

Berman's aunt, Cindy Parker, says family members are trying to cope with the heartbreaking loss of the beloved young woman.

"She loved life. Anything anybody ever needed she was there, whether it be just for a hug or ... " Parker says.

Berman's family members don't agree with the racing allegations.

"I think she was trying to get out of a racer's way because I see people whipping around that corner doing 100 all the time - probably every night," says Parker.

Family members say Berman was generally a careful driver - but Parker admits her niece had been drinking earlier in the evening. She had come home - but then went back out to return someone's keys.

Parker wishes her niece had never gone.

"I don't know how my daughter is going to go on without her. They held each other together," she says.

Above all else she hopes others will learn from her family's tragedy.