Driver in fatal crash near Camp Foster under investigation
By NATASHA LEE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 29, 2008
A 20-year-old Navy dependent is being investigated on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence in a Sunday crash that killed a 17-year-old passenger and seriously injured another.
Okinawa police said Thursday that James Yeakey, 20, had been drinking and may have been speeding when his Toyota Celica ran over a median on Highway 330 and collided head-on with a 2-ton truck.
No charges have been filed.
Police said they were planning to conduct an investigation Friday at the crash site with Yeakey present.
The crash occurred about 1:10 a.m. Sunday near Camp Foster’s Exchange gate, a spokesman for the Okinawa prefectural police in Ginowan said.
John Hall, 17, a front-seat passenger, died from injuries suffered in the crash. Another unidentified 17-year-old boy, who was riding in the back seat, remains in intensive care at the U.S. Naval Hospital on Camp Lester, Okinawa police said. Hall was a student at Kubasaki High School, as is the other passenger.
Yeakey, an unemployed former civilian base worker, was released from the naval hospital Wednesday, police said.
Marine Master Sgt. Charles Albrecht, spokesman for Marine Corps Bases Japan, said Thursday that information regarding the incident was not immediately available.
Okinawa police said naval hospital officials reported finding alcohol in blood samples taken from Yeakey and the 17-year-old back seat passenger. Police did not release the blood alcohol levels.
“The blood content was not very high, yet it was above the legal limits,” the spokesman said.
In Japan, drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.03 to 0.079 face up to three years in jail and $4,400 in fines. Passengers in vehicles driven by a drunken driver and those who provide alcohol to someone who drives drunk also can be punished.
Vehicular manslaughter carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison and a 1 million yen fine (about $10,000).
Okinawa police say Yeakey was driving south at about 100 kph (about 62 mph) when he struck a car in front of him and veered over the median and into oncoming traffic. The speed limit on the road is 50 kph.
The collision left skid marks about 206 feet long across the median, police said.
The 30-year-old truck driver was treated for a minor finger injury, and the 22-year-old driver hit from behind by Yeakey’s car was unharmed, Okinawa police said.
Hall and the 17-year-old passenger were off base past curfew for military dependents, which requires minors to be home by midnight during weekends.