Derek King and Nicholas Hodgins had finished their studies to become chefs and were preparing to graduate Saturday from Decatur High School in Federal Way.
They were returning from a get-together with other seniors in Bellevue on Wednesday night when their lives – and dreams of careers in culinary arts – ended on Interstate 5 near Tukwila.
The 19 8 6 Honda Civic they were riding in had broken down and was stopped in the center southbound lane around 10:30 p.m. with its emergency hazard lights on. King was a passenger in the back and Hodgins in front when a suspected drunken driver plowed his 1998 Ford Explorer into the Honda, the Washington State Patrol reported.
King, 18, died at the scene. He would have celebrated his 19th birthday Thursday. Hodgins, also 18, died Thursday afternoon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The Honda’s driver, Anthony Beaver, a 19-year-old Decatur senior, was injured, but was treated and released from Harborview.
“I wish that they could be here with me. I don’t care about how many injuries I get. I just wish they were here more than anything,” Beaver told KIRO 7 during an interview Thursday.
The driver of the Explorer also was injured. He was treated and then released from Harborview to state troopers. He was booked into King County Jail on suspicion of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.
The deadly accident shocked students and staff at Decatur High .
Students turned the high school reader board into a memorial with photos of King and Hodgins, adding flowers along the brick sign proclaiming “Home of the Golden Gators.”
Dozens of students sat in chairs or stood, crying and exchanging hugs Thursday as cars on busy Southwest 320th Street rushed by. Some sat pensively, looking at the ground and then glancing up to speak quietly to one another. Students planned to gather for a vigil Thursday night at the memorial.
About half of the 350-student senior class came back to school to be with one another, even though they’ve already finished their classes, said Diane Turner, spokeswoman for Federal Way Public Schools.
She described the deaths as “total tragedy.”
“They had futures and plans,” Turner said. “These were great students, great kids. We’re totally devastated.”
Many students and staff chose to talk with grief counselors who were available at Decatur on Thursday, Turner said. Decatur has about 1,200 students.
Nelson Atkinson , 18, a friend of the victims, was visibly shaken. He had planned to go on the seniors’ outing to Sky High Sports, a trampoline gym in Bellevue, but decided at the last minute to spend time with his girlfriend.
“I would have been in the car with them,” Atkinson said.
Of his friends, he said, “They always had fun.” “I never saw a frown on their faces.” And, Atkinson said, “They made great food.”
He said friends had been planning a party to celebrate King’s 19th birthday soon. Atkinson said graduation will go on. It’s scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
“It’s going to be hard without them,” said Atkinson, adding he knows his two dead friends will be in his heart.
On a day heavy with death, Atkinson said he’s learned a lesson on how to live life: “Pretend like every day’s your last and have fun.”
Hodgins lived that way. “He just lived life to the fullest,” Atkinson said.
King and Beaver planned to open a restaurant together, Turner said.
Besides their classes at Decatur, King, Hodgins and Beaver had finished a two-year program in culinary arts at the Puget Sound Skills Center in Burien, part of Highline Public Schools, said Highline spokeswoman Rexanne Forbes.
Decatur sophomore Nash Muraya said the high school was filled with grief with people crying – even moaning in pain. Teachers had a moment of silence at the beginning of class, he said.
Muraya was surprised when he learned from reporters after school let out that Hodgins also had died. He described King as “a really outgoing person.”
“He was just cool, funny,” said Muraya, 16.
He referred to a section King’s parents wrote for their son in the Decatur yearbook.
“The sky is the limit when you put your mind to it,” King’s parents wrote. “Soon with hard work you will be chef at your own restaurant. We are very proud of you and look forward to many more successes in life.”
They ended, “Love Mom & Dad.”
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647 firstname.lastname@example.org