QUINAULT TRIBAL MEMBER PLEADS GUILTY IN CONNECTION WITH CRASH THAT CLAIMED TWO LIVES
Defendant Admits to Driving Drunk when Car Carrying Seven Young People Crashed into River
SELA ANNE KALAMA, 20, of Queets, Washington pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to two counts of Involuntary Manslaughter in connection with a March 18, 2007, car accident that claimed two lives. Under the terms of the plea agreement, KALAMA must be sentenced to between 16 and 36 months in prison when sentenced by U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle on March 7, 2008, otherwise either side can withdraw from the plea agreement.
According to the statement of facts in the plea agreement, KALAMA admits that in the hours before the accident she consumed numerous bottles of beer, most of which were consumed during a party at a house on the Lower Elwha Klallam Indian Reservation. The reservation is outside of Port Angeles in Clallam County, Washington. Shortly after 3:00 a.m., KALAMA drove her car, with six teen-age passengers, off the Lower Elwha Road and into the Elwha River. KALAMA and four of her passengers escaped from the car and swam to shore. Vanna Francis, 16, and Ronnie Scroggins, 15, were not able to get out of the car and drowned in the river.
The plea agreement also details what other witnesses told police. Two of the front seat passengers say that KALAMA was texting on her cell phone before the car crashed into the water. Many of the witnesses report that KALAMA appeared impaired by alcohol at the party, and had been seen consuming multiple beers. KALAMA had even sent one text message about 90 minutes before the car went in the water stating “I’m drunk.” When interviewed by police about eight hours after the accident, KALAMA admitted to being impaired at the time of the accident from having consumed a dozen or more beers in the hours leading up to the fatal drive.
The plea agreement also describes the area of the crash, noting that the road was not lit by any streetlights and that there was no moon and a light fog at the time of the accident. The road has trees and brush very close to the edge of the road. The Elwha River was running high, almost up to the level of the road. In addition to driving while intoxicated, the indictment to which KALAMA pleaded guilty alleged that she drove too fast for the conditions of the road that night. KALAMA also admits she had driven that exact same stretch of road earlier in the evening, and had parked within 20 feet of the river’s edge. KALAMA had been alerted to the danger at that spot earlier in the evening, when she had heard three teens tell of how they had nearly driven their car into the river a few minutes earlier.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office, and the Lower Elwha Tribal Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Gregory A. Gruber and Roger S. Rogoff.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.