Man faces vehicular homicide charge in fatal Salmon Creek crash

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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A Vancouver man was wanted on a warrant for driving while suspended when he allegedly drove while intoxicated and struck a green Chevrolet Impala late Saturday in Salmon Creek, killing the 40-year-old driver. A female passenger in the Chevrolet was seriously injured.

Luka I. Tapua’Ialupe, 30, and his passenger, Jacob Pratt, 27, are accused of fleeing the scene on foot when they saw that the Impala’s driver, Gregory Thorkildson, was unresponsive.

Tapua’Ialupe appeared Monday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and felony hit and run. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges June 20. Judge Robert Lewis held him in lieu of $100,000 bail and appointed the Grecco Downs law firm of Vancouver to defend him against the charges. It’s unclear whether Pratt will face charges. The case remains under investigation, said Clark County sheriff’s Detective Chris Luque.

Thorkildson, of Portland, died at the scene of the collision. His passenger, Jennifer L. Hulsopple-Wade, 37, was transported to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center with brain injuries and multiple fractures, according to the sheriff’s office. She was in satisfactory condition Monday afternoon, said Michelle Halfhill, a hospital spokeswoman. Thorkildson, originally from Battle Ground, and Hulsopple-Wade, a Fort Vancouver High School graduate, were a couple, according to their Facebook profiles.

According to court records, Tapua’Ialupe was southbound in a brown Ford Bronco on Northeast 29th Avenue at the intersection of Northeast 134th Street and traveling at a high speed when the Bronco collided just before 11 p.m. Saturday with the Impala. At the time of the crash, the Impala was eastbound on Northeast 134th Street through the intersection.

Tapua’Ialupe said he checked on the Chevrolet’s driver after the collision and was unable to wake him, so he fled the scene, according to court records.

Sheriff’s deputies apprehended Tapua’Ialupe as he and Pratt were waiting for a taxi at a convenience store at 12908 N.E. Highway 99 more than an hour after the collision, according to court records.

Tapua’Ialupe allegedly confessed to detectives that he drank four beers before getting behind the wheel Saturday and colliding with the couple’s vehicle.

“During the interview, (he) stated he was intoxicated and usually drives his vehicle if he is intoxicated,” Luque wrote in a court affidavit. “(He) further said he never allows anyone else to drive his vehicle regardless of his level of intoxication.”

More than two hours after the crash, a preliminary breath test showed that his blood alcohol level was 0.057 percent, according to court records.

He said that as he was driving down the hill on Northeast 29th Avenue, he couldn’t brake or steer his vehicle, court records say. Court records provide no details about whether there were mechanical problems with the vehicle or whether he couldn’t operate the brakes and steering wheel because he allegedly was incapacitated.

At the time of the collision, Tapua’Ialupe was wanted on a warrant related to a driving while suspended case, said Deputy Prosecutor Julie Carmena.

Court records indicate his license is suspended. In 2010, he was cited for driving 13 mph over the speed limit, and the ticket went to collections.

He was cited for driving without a license in March 2011 and for driving his truck while his license was suspended in May 2013.

He pleaded guilty to third-degree driving while suspended and was sentenced to two days of work crew. However, he failed to complete one of the days, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. The warrant was still pending at the time of Saturday’s collision.

He is married and has a 1-year-old son and a 12-year-old stepdaughter, according to court records. His attorney, Diane Grecco, asked Monday that he be released on supervision so that he may continue working and supporting his family. The judge denied the request unless Tapua’Ialupe posts bail.