Student charged in fatal wreck

A 19-year-old South Puget Sound Community College student faces one count of vehicular homicide and three counts of
vehicular assault for allegedly driving his Mercedes-Benz at high speeds in Des Moines earlier this month, causing a crash that killed a 25-year-old woman.

Yichun Xu, who came to SPSCC from China in September, is being held in the King County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail, according to charging papers.

Court documents say Xu was driving a C300 he purchased four days earlier at 70 mph down a residential street on Nov. 10 around 3 p.m. before running a stop sign and smashing into a red BMW driven by Brenda Gomez-Zapata.

Gomez-Zapata, who was taking four family members to a birthday party, suffered a traumatic brain injury and was taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She died last Monday afternoon after her family decided to take her off life support.

Her 14-year-old brother, Juan Carlos, also suffered a brain injury. Itsi Gomez, 14, suffered a head injury and multiple rib fractures in the crash.

Xu was travelling with four female passengers at the time of the crash. He told police they were returning from a grocery store and navigating their way back to an apartment using the car’s GPS.

He told police he thought he was driving a few miles over 40 mph and did not see the stop sign. The speed limit on the residential street is 30 mph. Xu has a license to drive in China, but does not have an international driver’s license or a Washington state license, according to court documents.

The Seattle Times reported Xu was also being held on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hold because his student paperwork was not properly submitted.

SPSCC Dean of College Relations Kellie Braseth confirmed Xu was enrolled at the college this fall through the international program. She said he has been living with a host family in Lacey.

Braseth said his paperwork with the school was complete and the college had shared the documents with ICE officials. She said the college strives to make international students feel welcome, but have no control over their actions off campus.

“There is a sense of community and support that the college makes to ensure international students have a support system. They are a long way away from their families,” she said.

Braseth said the college has had no contact with Xu’s parents, although multiple news outlets reported the parents arrived in the Seattle area a few days after the crash.

Court documents say Xu requested to bail out several times before being booked into jail and had $542 in his wallet at the time of the crash. KIRO TV reported Xu purchased the 2008 Mercedes-Benz for $31,000 from a Craigslist.com advertisement.

Xu must surrender his passport and will not be allowed to leave western Washington if he makes bail.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 29.