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Washougal man gets 8½ years in crash deaths of German tourists

David Croswell, 73, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in crash that killed two at Sandy Swimming Hole

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
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David Croswell is sentenced to 8 1/2  years in prison after he fatally struck two German tourists with his car in June 2019 on the beach at Sandy Swimming Hole. He pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide last month in Clark County Superior Court.
David Croswell is sentenced to 8 1/2 years in prison after he fatally struck two German tourists with his car in June 2019 on the beach at Sandy Swimming Hole. He pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide last month in Clark County Superior Court. (Becca Robbins/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A Washougal man who fatally struck two German tourists with his car in June 2019 while they were sunbathing on the beach at Sandy Swimming Hole was sentenced to 8½ years in prison Wednesday.

David Croswell, 73, pleaded guilty last month to one count of vehicular homicide in Clark County Superior Court. He was originally facing two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of hit-and-run resulting in death.

Judge Gregory Gonzales called the 102-month sentence, which was the maximum allowed within the standard range, “appropriate” and “just.”

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu had asked the judge for a sentence of 90 months, and defense attorney Shon Bogar had requested 78 months. Bogar cited Croswell’s age and poor health, which includes diagnoses of cardiopulmonary disease and emphysema, he said.

Croswell appeared in court Wednesday in a wheelchair, with machines to help him breathe.

Gonzales called the fatal crash a “horrible tragedy” and said there was “no reason for the crash to occur.” Before ordering the high-end sentence, the judge also noted that Croswell was under the influence of alcohol during the crash and didn’t turn himself in while police were looking for the driver who struck the tourists.

The victims, Rudolf Hohstadt, 61, and Regina Hohstadt, 62, were visiting their son in the Portland area and had been in the United States for a few days, according to Washougal police.

Shortly before 5 p.m. June 25, 2019, a maroon-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee was traveling east on North Shepherd Road when it left the roadway and plowed through a chain-link fence on the west side of Sandy Swimming Hole Park, 550 N. Shepherd Road. The Jeep went down a 30-foot embankment and continued toward the Washougal River, striking the Hohstadts, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case. Vu said the Jeep’s front grill was left in the road from the crash.

The Hohstadts were taken to an area hospital with severe injuries but died soon after.

At about 8:15 p.m., Croswell’s son-in-law called 911 after hearing the description of the suspect vehicle on the news. He visited Croswell and saw matching damage on Croswell’s Jeep, prompting the son-in-law to alert authorities, the affidavit says.

When officers spoke with Croswell, they could smell a strong odor of alcohol coming from him. He reportedly told officers he was driving the Jeep and was involved in the crash at the swimming hole. Croswell also admitted to drinking alcohol beforehand, according to court records.

Vu said Wednesday a blood sample drawn from Croswell while police interviewed him, more than five hours after the crash, showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.075. Investigators determined that at the time of the crash, his blood-alcohol level was likely at 0.157, Vu said. In Washington, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered evidence of drunken driving.

Bogar said Croswell spent time in the hospital after the crash, and he believes Croswell’s lung disease played a role in the crash.

“I can’t explain how any of this happened,” Bogar said Wednesday. “I can’t explain how he was able to drive home.”

Gonzales allowed Croswell to hug his family members who were in court Wednesday at the end of the sentencing hearing. The judge also granted Bogar’s request to hold off on transporting Croswell to prison until his COVID-19 booster has taken effect.

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