Blood testing delays charges in Elwha bridge wreck

Accused driver released pending sample processing

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles man who allegedly caused a six-vehicle pileup while allegedly driving nearly three times over the legal limit for alcohol last week was exonerated of his conditions of release Monday.

Donavan Patrick Murphy, 22, could be charged after a blood sample has been processed at a State Patrol crime lab, Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Nichols said.

“We opted to exonerate at this point in time, recognizing that there’s a significant backlog and delay at the State Patrol crime lab,” Nichols said after a Monday court hearing.

“Because part of the evidence we will need in this case involves blood toxicity results, we made a strategic decision to not charge to ensure that we have the results in time to be able to advance this case to trial.

“I do anticipate that we’ll be filing charges,” Nichols added, “but we don’t want to do so in a way that compromises the interest of the state.”

The State Patrol said Murphy was traveling eastbound on U.S. Highway 101 at a “high rate of speed” when the 2004 Ford F-150 pickup he was driving rear-ended a 2017 Hyundai Elantra on the Elwha River bridge.

The impact caused a “domino effect” that involved the Hyundai and four other vehicles that were stopped in a construction zone near the east end of the bridge, said Trooper Chelsea Hodgson, State Patrol spokeswoman.

Four patients were treated and discharged from Olympic Medical Center and two were treated by medics at the scene.

Murphy was arrested for investigation of vehicular assault and driving under the influence of alcohol.

He told investigators that he had been drinking alcohol at Lake Crescent before the crash, according to the affidavit for probable cause.

Murphy failed a field sobriety test and registered a 0.227 blood alcohol level on a voluntary breath test, Trooper Keith Nestor wrote in the affidavit.

The legal driving limit in Washington is 0.08 percent.

Murphy, who had no prior convictions, was released from the Clallam County jail on his personal recognizance Thursday.

He appeared in court Monday with his Seattle attorney, Brit Mercer, appearing telephonically.

As part of his conditions of release, Murphy had been required to use an interlock device before driving and to abstain from alcohol.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour signed Monday an order exonerating Murphy of his conditions of release at Nichols’ request.

“There’s a possibility the state will still file charges against you, but you would have to be notified first and a date set for you to appear,” Coughenour told Murphy.

After the hearing, Nichols said he had been working with the State Patrol to try to expedite the blood testing.

“But even with an expedited testing occurring, we still anticipate it will take months before we’re able to receive the blood results back,” Nichols said.

The state Department of Transportation said U.S. Highway 101 was blocked from 4:44 p.m. to 11:44 p.m. because of the wreck last Wednesday.

Clallam County Fire District 2 used hydraulic rescue tools to remove the passenger door and roof of the Hyundai Elantra, freeing a woman and child who were later treated at OMC.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].