PORT ANGELES — Jacob Torey’s world changed forever between the time he left a recreation area south of Port Angeles with two companions the night of June 1, 2018, and waking up to the din and bright lights of a helicopter airlifting him to Harborview Medical Center.
The Port Angeles resident, then 18, was airlifted to the Seattle hospital from Marine Drive at the McKinley Paper Company plant shortly before sunrise that day, his spine severed in a vehicle collision, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, he tried recalling Tuesday in Clallam County Superior Court.
Before him at a defense table sat Zachary Alan Fletcher, 23, charged with two counts of alcohol-related vehicular assault.
Fletcher was allegedly driving the speeding Ford four-door pickup when it hit a concrete barrier, went airborne and smashed into a telephone pole, injuring Torey and another person in the Ford 350, Naomi Kuykendall, then 19.
Kuykendall, too, testified how the collision has affected her.
She made Snapchat videos of Fletcher speeding at 95 mph on Ediz Hook, turning the steering wheel in short bursts left and right while wearing his boxer-short underwear, music blaring with Fletcher hanging out the window — that she was sharing immediately with Snapchat friends.
The former Running Start student broke a neck vertebra and, she said, caused memory lapses. She, too, was airlifted to Harborview.
Fletcher’s lawyers, Lane Wolfley and Larry Freedman, honed in on those lapses at Tuesday’s proceedings as they built their defense on the premise that Fletcher was not driving at the time of the crash.
Following the collision Fletcher registered a 0.18 blood alcohol level, more than double the legal limit of 0.08, and failed two field sobriety tests, according to a probable cause statement.
Greg Frank of the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab said Fletcher, Torey and Kuykendall were not wearing seat belts.
Sitting in his wheelchair Tuesday, Torey described how his life has changed since the collision.
He can’t move his bowels normally, and he has forgotten all details of the collision, he said.
Torey said he, Kuykendall and Fletcher were all drinking beer when they went to Six Pack, an informal recreation area south of Port Angeles the night of June 1.
They shot pistols provided by Fletcher, Kuykendall and Torey said.
One of Kuykendall’s videos shows her shooting off about 10 rounds in the dark.
Torey said Kuykendall was driving the truck when they left to go to Ediz Hook.
“I do remember leaving Six Pack, and that’s it,” Torey said.
“The next thing I remember after that is hearing the helicopter blades and seeing, like, those lights inside the helicopter, and that’s it,” Torey said.
Torey was thrown 15 feet from the truck during the collision, according to Fletcher’s probable cause statement.
Torey spent a month at Harborview, including rehabilitation that encompassed “learning how to deal with all this new stuff” related to his paralysis, Torey said.
“Things don’t work like they used to,” he said.
“You can’t feel anything pretty much from here down,” he said, gesturing at his waistband.
He said he is taking online courses at Peninsula College to help him decide what to do with his life.
“I hate sitting around,” he said.
He had worked at Black Ball Ferry Line — “everything from parking cars to cleaning toilets,” he said.
Now he works in the Black Ball office during the summer.
“They actually created a job for me, pretty much,” he said, choking back tears.
Kuykendall said she had just met Fletcher that night and wanted to spend time with Torey, on whom she “had a crush.”
She said she drove Fletcher’s truck on a gravel road at Six Pack “to show off” but later yielded the wheel to Fletcher.
“Zack drove down to the spit, where he started speeding,” she said, adding he was driving “at least 100 miles an hour.”
She said she was sitting in the middle with Torey on her right.
Under cross examination by Wolfley, she said she could not remember if she was sitting in the front or back seat with Torey.
Kuykendall could not remember if she supplied the beer they drank, could not remember if they walked on the beach at Ediz Hook, which Torey said she later told him, and could not remember when Fletcher was in boxer shorts and when he was fully dressed.
She said the collision has caused a degree of memory loss that causes her to have to read sentences several times to understand them and caused her to discard her goal of pursuing a nursing degree in favor of business management.
She can’t sit or stand for long periods of time and has “to find something that is a kind of perfect in between,” she said.
“It’s basically, I used to hike a lot and go fishing and do a lot of outdoor activities,” she said.
“I have to consider my neck and how it’s going to feel,” she said, adding she can’t fully turn it left or right.
Kuykendall never wavered from her assertion that Fletcher was driving.
Fletcher has not testified in the trial, which is estimated to last up to six days.
According to the probable cause statement, he said he had two “small beers” June 1, 2018, at about 4 p.m. and two more “small beers” between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Kuykendall said she recalled telling him to “slow down” as he approached a stop sign at the McKinley mill, where the collision occurred.
Then she was in a lot of pain, “saying please don’t let me die,” Kuykendall said.
Fletcher said in the probable cause statement that he stopped at the stop sign “then sped up until he lost control and crashed.”
Freedman said Monday that Fletcher suffered a concussion because of the collision and “actually thought he was driving.”
The trial continues today.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].