July 24, 2005 in City

Man charged in deadly crash

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jed Conklin photo

An ISP trooper photographs one of two cars involved in a fatal collision on I-90 Saturday near Post Falls.
(Full-size photo)

Two people were killed and five injured Saturday afternoon in a head-on collision that backed up traffic for miles near the Idaho-Washington border.

The driver accused of causing the crash, Kevin T. Culp, was booked into the Kootenai County Jail on two counts of vehicular manslaughter.

This is the second time Culp has faced a manslaughter charge. He was arrested in 2004 and charged with first-degree manslaughter after he shot a man to death while fiddling with a loaded gun and leaving a rural Spokane Valley cemetery.

A jury deadlocked earlier this year in deciding his guilt in that case. Culp testified that the shooting was an accident.

“He’s an awfully nice kid, and I don’t know how these tragedies keep following him,” said Richard Mathisen, Culp’s public defender in the shooting case.

On Saturday, Culp was westbound on Interstate 90 about a mile east of Pleasant View Road when he drove through the median and collided with an eastbound semitruck about 12:45 p.m., the Idaho State Police reported. Culp, driving a Suzuki SUV, next crashed into an eastbound Mercury van carrying a family.

The van’s driver, Spokane Valley resident Henrietta E. Lewis, 40, and her passenger Tonia M. Lewis, 30, were killed, the ISP said.

Four other passengers in the van were taken to area hospitals. Travis Lewis, 31, was listed in critical condition Saturday night at Deaconess Medical Center. Robert I. Buckley, 30, was transported to Kootenai Medical Center and was listed in serious condition. An 11-year-old whose identity was unclear was treated and released at KMC. An infant with the last name of Lewis was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center. The baby’s condition was unknown Saturday night.

Culp was treated and released from KMC. Afterward, he was arrested and taken to jail.

Eastbound traffic was diverted from I-90 at the state line for two hours, and traffic backed up several miles as troopers worked to clear the scene.

The driver of the semitruck, 51-year-old Wallace H. Umland, of Philipsburg, Mont., was not injured.

In Culp’s earlier manslaughter case, he had just finished filming a rap video at St. Joseph’s Cemetery with three others when they got into a car driven by Cedric R. Sykes, 19. Culp, while sitting in the back, picked up a revolver they’d used in the video, cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger, sheriff’s investigators said. Sykes was shot in his neck and died three weeks later.

A new trial in the matter is set for later this summer and a hearing on the case is scheduled for this week.

Culp has “had some periods of profound depression over this,” Mathisen said about Syke’s death.

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