Morgan Fick Williams usually rode the bus from her North Seattle home to the Eddie Bauer corporate offices, where she had worked for 32 years.
On Thursday, though, the 58-year-old mother of two decided to drive to work in Bellevue, across the 520 floating bridge, because she planned to visit an old high-school friend at a Bellingham hospice after work, her brother, Matt Fick, said Thursday.
Williams was driving east
when her gold 2003 Mazda Protege was struck head-on in the pre-dawn darkness by a suspected drunken driver who was driving his Ford Explorer the wrong way.
The impact mangled Williams’ car, and traffic was brought to a standstill as first responders cut Williams from the wreckage. She died hours later at Harborview Medical Center, according to the Washington State Patrol (WSP).
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The driver of the SUV was identified as Michael Anthony Robertson, 25, of Tacoma. He suffered a likely broken ankle and was taken to Harborview, where he was listed in satisfactory condition, according to the WSP.
He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide, the WSP said.
Court records show that Robertson is awaiting trial in Tacoma Municipal Court on a charge of driving under the influence stemming from a Dec. 15, 2012, accident on Interstate 5. According to prosecutors, his blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
He had pleaded not guilty and was scheduled to go to trial later this month, records show. After his arrest, Robertson was released from jail on personal recognizance and ordered not to consume any alcohol.
Alcohol is suspected as a factor in Thursday’s crash, and Robertson’s blood was drawn at Harborview to determine if he was intoxicated, said Trooper George Englebright, a WSP spokesman. Robertson was placed under arrest on investigation of vehicular homicide, he said.
How Robertson ended up driving in the wrong direction was not clear. Englebright said it is possible that Robertson traveled the entire length of the bridge going the wrong way. Or perhaps he made a U-turn somewhere along the span, Englebright said.
Detectives expect to forward their case to King County prosecutors for a charging decision on Friday, he said.
News of Williams’ death stunned her friends and relatives, her brother said. “We are heartbroken,” said Matt Fick, of Bainbridge Island.
Williams, a former student-body president at Oak Harbor High School, graduated from the University of Washington in 1977 with an accounting degree, Fick said.
Long before the days of Facebook, Williams kept in regular touch with friends from elementary school, high school and college, he said. She married her high-school sweetheart after graduating from the UW, and the two remained close friends even after divorcing a few years ago, Fick said.
“She was the glue who kept a lot of groups together,” Fick said of his sister, who has an adult son and daughter.
Williams loved to travel and recently returned from a trip to Morocco, he said. She planned to visit her mother in San Diego this month, and had another trip planned to New York City.
“This is going to have a huge ripple effect in a very big way,” said Fick’s wife, Jan, who was close to her sister-in-law.
Earline Carlone, of Edmonds, first met Williams when they both lived in the same dorm at the UW. The two shared every milestone of their adult lives and raised their children together, Carlone said.
“She always reached out. If there was a crisis, you always knew Morgan would be there to help out,” she said.
Williams “had a huge smile and a loud laugh,” Carlone said. “She was willing to try most anything.”
She had a vivaciousness that kept old friends close and “just expanded her circle to include new ones,” she said.
Carlone said Williams started working for Eddie Bauer while she was still at the UW. She worked as the company’s fabric buyer at one point, and most recently was the manager of accounts payable, Carlone said.
Molly McWhinnie, an Eddie Bauer spokeswoman, said Williams is “going to be deeply missed by her friends and colleagues here.”
The crash happened less than two weeks after a horrific accident in the Wedgwood neighborhood of North Seattle where an alleged drunken driver drove into a family on a walk, killing an Indiana couple who had recently moved to Seattle to be closer to their newborn grandson. The mother of the child and her infant were critically injured in the crash.
In response to the Wedgwood accident, state lawmakers are weighing tougher DUI laws.
The state’s Impaired Driving Working Group has scheduled an emergency meeting next Tuesday to discuss what can be done in the 3½
weeks that remain in the legislative session.
The priority, for now, appears to be a 60-page proposal tabled earlier this session that would tweak several aspects of drunken-driving law, from expanding DUI courts to restricting deferred sentencing — and would increase the penalty specifically for driving drunk on the wrong side of a highway.
Some lawmakers also want to make drunken driving a felony on the third conviction, instead of the fifth, and require cars impounded during DUI arrests to be automatically outfitted with an ignition interlock device.
Both proposals are likely to face resistance for financial reasons. More felony convictions, for example, mean more prison time — and millions more in state spending.
“Some of this will be difficult to get immediately,” said state Rep. Cyrus Habib, D-Kirkland. “But tragedies like this remind us of the cost of delay, so I will certainly redouble my efforts to make this a priority.”
Washington state has steadily stiffened DUI penalties over the last 15 years, but a recent Seattle Times analysis found that alcohol-related crashes are not dropping any faster than non-alcohol-related collisions.
Staff reporters Mike Carter and Brian M. Rosenthal and news researchers Miyoko Wolf and Gene Balk contributed to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org