A 19-year-old Maple Valley man was charged with vehicular assault and reckless endangerment. Prosecutors say he suffers from epilepsy and drove that day despite a suspended license.
A 19-year-old Maple Valley man accused of plowing his pickup into a group of middle-school students in April as they waited for their school bus has been charged with three counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless endangerment, according to King County prosecutors.
Tanner Sypole, who was diagnosed with epilepsy as a child and suffers grand mal seizures, was aware before the crash of a requirement that he be seizure-free for a year in order to drive, according to the charges. He drove the day of the crash despite having his license suspended because his doctor could not certify to the state Department of Licensing that he had been seizure-free, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim wrote in charging papers.
“Of great concern is his utter disregard of the requirements necessary for him to drive safely and the apparent lack of support for those requirements from his support system,” Freedheim wrote. “Convenience apparently trumped safety for the defendant and the community.”
Just before 8 a.m. April 14, Sypole had a seizure while driving south on 218th Avenue Southeast in Maple Valley and lost consciousness with his foot on the accelerator of his pickup, say the charges. He drove across the oncoming lane and gravel easement before hitting a group of 13 children standing by the side of the road, then he crashed into a mailbox and a tree, charging papers say.
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The pickup was stopped from moving forward by the tree, but its rear wheels continued to spin, throwing gravel and debris. Witnesses had to break into Sypole’s truck to remove his foot from the accelerator as he continued to seize, the charges say. He regained consciousness shortly after being removed from his truck and began vomiting, the charges say.
Six boys were injured, three of them seriously: An 11-year-old suffered a traumatic brain injury and concussion; a 13-year-old had a broken left foot; a boy just shy of his 12th birthday suffered a broken right femur that required surgery; and three children, two 13-year-olds and a 12-year-old, sustained abrasions, cuts and soft-tissue injuries, according to charging papers.
Deputies interviewed one 12-year-old who saw the pickup coming toward the group, say the charges. The boy yelled “look out!” to the others and pushed one boy toward the road before he jumped clear of the truck’s path, according to charging papers.
The boy who was pushed later said he had been wearing headphones and didn’t see the truck coming, the charges say. He fell and scraped his elbow but wasn’t hit by the pickup.
Medics determined Sypole exhibited symptoms consistent with a seizure, say the charges. “Sypole was not directly answering questions asked to him and did not appear to know what happened,” they say.
Sypole’s blood was drawn three hours after the collision and toxicology tests determined he had “sub-therapeutic levels” of valproic acid, a seizure medication known as Depakote, and THC levels indicating he had recently used marijuana, say the charges.
Sypole had suffered a seizure on April 23, 2015, and “was specifically told that he was not safe to drive” at that time, charging papers say. His doctor discussed with him “his history of noncompliance with treatment and the importance of compliance,” they say.
At another medical appointment last November, “he was advised by his doctor of the importance of following her advice, including taking his medication as prescribed and not using other drugs or alcohol,” say the charges, which note that Sypole reported to his doctor that his mother had obtained marijuana oil for him to use as a seizure medication.
“His license to drive was suspended due to his medical condition and his doctor being unable to certify that he had been seizure-free a full year,” the charges say.
Sypole, who spent a little more than 24 hours in King County Jail before he was released April 15, is to be arraigned at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent on Oct. 17. Prosecutors are asking that his bail be set at $25,000.