Opinion

EDITORIAL | Young driver has paid the price for his mistake

Robert Allen Rundquist Jr., originally charged with two counts of vehicular homicide in the car-crash deaths of two teen girls — one of whom was his girlfriend — is now charged with two counts of hit and run.

At the request of the girls' families, the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office allowed Rundquist to plea guilty to the lesser charge, which carries a one-year prison sentence. Vehicular homicide was, perhaps, too severe a charge. But hit and run doesn't make sense, because Rundquist didn't leave the scene — he tried to help free the girls from the car. We don't know what the appropriate charge is. But we know hit and run is an inaccurate description of what happened.

This we do know: The girls' deaths will be Rundquist's burden to carry forever. The burden is made heavier by the fact that the deaths were caused by carelessness.

According to police reports, a Toyota Camry with three girls inside and Rundquist's truck were racing northbound on Baby Doll Road about 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 16. The vehicles reportedly passed each other multiple times at high speed, well in excess of the posted 35 mph speed limit.

The car approached a northbound SUV; the driver hit the brakes and skidded off the roadway and struck a tree. Rundquist went to the scene to try and help. Two of the three girls — Rebekah Faye Barrett, 18, of South Kitsap, and Shanaia Rose Bennett, 17, of Gig Harbor — were pronounced dead at the scene.

Rundquist was later arrested and charged with two counts of vehicular homicide. Rebekah and Shanaia's families asked the court for leniency, and Rundquist was allowed to plea guilty to two counts of hit-and-run.

Rundquist will be sentenced on June 23, after his high school graduation. We hope the court will consider community service; Rundquist could accomplish more good by making presentations to young drivers about the dangers of racing and unsafe driving than serving a year in prison. He already has a life sentence ahead of him: The memories of two girls who died because he and his girlfriend made a tragic decision to race.

 

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