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Dec. 2, 2023

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Yacolt driver was drinking heavily before fatal crash, prosecutors say

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

Investigators say a Yacolt woman had a blood-alcohol content more than four times the legal limit shortly after she crashed a pickup Feb. 4, 2022, killing her passenger.

Ronda J. Knapp, 50, appeared Thursday in Clark County Superior Court on suspicion of vehicular homicide in the death of 51-year-old Steven J. Woolsey of Yacolt.

The prosecution said Knapp has criminal history that is more than a decade old, including a 2009 DUI that was later amended to negligent driving, and eight prior arrest warrants.

Judge Suzan Clark granted the prosecution’s request Knapp be held on $200,000 bail and be subject to alcohol monitoring if released.

“That’s probably one of the higher blood-alcohol levels I’ve seen in some time,” Clark said.

Knapp is scheduled to be arraigned May 24.

According to a probable cause affidavit, someone called 911 shortly after 9 p.m. to report finding a Toyota Tacoma in a ditch in the 26700 block of Northeast Lucia Falls Road. Clark County sheriff’s deputies responded and found the pickup’s two occupants were injured. The passenger, Woolsey, was declared dead at the scene. The driver, Knapp, was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver.

The pickup struck multiple trees before coming to rest with its nose against a tree, facing south, the affidavit states.

Responding deputies and medics noted the odor of alcohol coming from Knapp, and her speech was slow and slurred. Knapp reportedly told a medic she had been drinking, according to court records.

Knapp’s blood was drawn for toxicology testing about two hours after the crash, before she was given a blood transfusion. The test results came back in April and showed Knapp had a blood-alcohol content of 0.33, the affidavit states. In Washington, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered evidence of drunken driving.

Investigators said they found Knapp’s purse in the cab of the pickup, which contained a straw and white powdery substance. Another bag contained a jar of clear liquid. A preliminary breath test showed a positive result for alcohol, according to the affidavit.

Days after the crash, Woolsey’s brother told investigators that Knapp told him she had swerved to avoid a deer in the road, and she denied any other contributing factors, such as driving under the influence, court records say.

Speed calculations done on the pickup found it was traveling between 65 mph and 78 mph. The speed limit in that area is 50 mph, the affidavit states.

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