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News / Clark County News

La Center man who drove drunk sentenced to more than 12 years in crash that killed 3

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Local News Editor
Published: April 24, 2023, 5:04pm

A La Center man who was driving drunk when he killed three teenage girls in June 2021 on state Highway 503 was sentenced Monday to 12¼ years in prison.

David R. Zarb, 48, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to three counts of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence in the deaths of 15-year-old sisters Emi Yato and Harumi Yato, both of Yacolt, and their cousin, Ivy A. Hunt, 16, of Napavine.

Washington State Patrol troopers said Zarb drove his northbound Ford F-150 pickup across the center line and struck a southbound Mazda 3 sedan, driven by Harumi Yato, at Gabriel Road near Fargher Lake. The crash occurred around 1:30 p.m. June 14, 2021.

Ivy Hunt was pronounced dead at the scene, and the twins later died from their injuries at a hospital. The twins’ mother, Danlette Yato, then 66, of Yacolt was also taken to an area hospital with minor injuries, court records state.

Zarb admitted to first responders he had consumed several alcoholic drinks at a friend’s house and a Battle Ground restaurant before driving home. An open container was also found in his pickup. When firefighters asked him what time it was, Zarb reportedly thought it was 6 or 7 p.m., according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Troopers said they could smell the odor of alcohol coming from Zarb, as well as his pickup, and his eyes were bloodshot and watery, the affidavit states.

Toxicology testing found Zarb had a blood-alcohol content of 0.23. In Washington, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered evidence of drunken driving. Zarb’s THC level was also more than twice the legal limit of 5.0 for driving, according to the prosecution’s sentencing memorandum.

In a written victim impact statement submitted to the court, Ivy’s mother described herself as “an empty shell of what I used to be.”

“I don’t know why it has taken almost two years for the killer of three children to get his sentence. I cry everyday and cry in my sleep. Ivy was my one and only child, and my parents’ only grandchild,” she wrote.

In his written statement, Ivy’s grandfather described the holidays as being especially difficult with an empty chair at the table.

“Our hopes, dreams and expectations for Ivy were all taken away the day she was killed. Seeing her graduating, getting married or having children will never happen,” he wrote, later adding, “No matter what sentence is handed out today, it will never be justice enough for the lives of these three girls. David Zarb deserves to carry the haunting memory of what he did to the girls for the rest of his life.”

The twins’ mother spoke at length about the aftermath of the crash.

“This has been completely devastating for my husband and me,” she wrote in a victim impact statement. “The accident took both our daughters’ lives and that of their cousin. It also emptied my life and my husband’s life, our dreams and hopes for our children, and someday grandchildren have been ripped away.”

Zarb faced a standard sentencing range of 111 to 147 months and was sentenced to 147 months. The prosecution had asked for the high-end sentence; the defense asked for 120 months, or 10 years, citing the sentences in other local vehicular homicide cases.

“I would just like to say I am so very sorry for the three lives I took,” Zarb told the court, calling his actions unforgivable. “I have no excuses.”

Judge John Fairgrieve acknowledged the lives of the victims’ families were “unquestionably altered.”

“They will suffer emotional pain for the rest of their lives,” he said. The judge also acknowledged the damage to the community and society as a whole, stating, “I can’t ignore the magnitude of the damage done here.”