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Kent family hopes sign in memory of David Daniel makes a difference

Sarah Daniel, far right, and her children Daniel Turnbaugh and Cristina Daniel, read the sign posted in the Panther Lake neighborhood where Sarah
Sarah Daniel, far right, and her children Daniel Turnbaugh and Cristina Daniel, read the sign posted in the Panther Lake neighborhood where Sarah's father David Daniel died last August after a collision with a drunk driver.
— image credit: STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

A Panther Lake neighborhood in Kent forever changed the morning of Aug. 22 because of a drunk driver.

"This was my dad's home," said Sarah Daniel, of Kent, as she stood with her two children beneath a sign posted last month along Southeast 223rd Drive by the city of Kent in memory of David Daniel. "He loved the neighborhood, walking the dogs and riding his motorcycle."

The sign reads:

"Please don't drink and drive. In memory of David Daniel."

The summer morning in August started out like a typical work day for David Daniel as he hopped on his motorcycle for the commute to his job in Auburn at Mar Cor Purification.

Daniel had traveled westbound only a few blocks from his home when a Nissan coupe going in the opposite direction at about 6:44 a.m. at a high rate of speed and with a drunk driver at the wheel crossed the centerline along Southeast 223rd Drive and crashed into the 55-year-old motorcyclist. Daniel died at the scene.

Linda Daniel, the wife of David, came up with the idea to ask the city to post the sign.

"She wanted something to not necessarily mark the site of the accident but to make people aware of the consequences of drinking and driving or being under the influence of some sort of mind-altering substance," Sarah Daniel said. "We notified the city that we wanted a please don't drink and sign in memory of my dad to be posted somewhere along this stretch to hopefully have people slow down a little bit and think about what your actions are and the consequences to your actions."

Justin Jerald Cordova, 19, of Kent, will soon find out about the consequences of his actions. Cordova, who pleaded guilty in December to vehicular homicide in connection with the death, is scheduled to be sentenced March 22 before King County Superior Court Judge Carol Schapira.

Cordova faces a sentencing range of 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 years under a new state law that took effect in June. The previous sentencing range was 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years. Cordova remains in the county jail at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.

Prosecutors said Cordova, who lived about one-half mile from David Daniel, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent and traveled at high speed. Witnesses reported that Cordova had been going an estimated 65 mph just prior to the accident. They described the car as going "freeway speed." The posted speed is 25 mph in the residential neighborhood.

Cordova, who was 18 at the date of the accident, told Kent Police officers that he had been drinking Red Bull and Jaegermeister at about 11 the previous night. He said he was going about 45 mph and didn't see the motorcycle. Cordova submitted to a portable breath test that indicated a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent, above the 0.02 level to cite a minor for a DUI and the 0.08 level for adults.

The death of David Daniel increased the efforts by residents who live in the neighborhood to get the city to install a speed bump, traffic circle or other device to slow traffic down along Southeast 223rd Drive.

The SE 223rd Drive Traffic Calming Committee will meet with city staff on Feb. 21 to discuss possible solutions, said Rob Knutzen, city transportation engineering specialist.

City officials agreed to install the don't drink and drive sign.

"You can tell just standing out here that people do slow down when they see a sign," said Daniel as a car passed by the site. "It is right here. It keeps my dad's accident scene in the forefront of people's minds."

Sarah Daniel said it doesn't bother her that the city hasn't installed a speed bump or traffic circle. She knows her her father would have reacted.

"My dad would want the traffic calming to go somewhere else if it's needed more somewhere else than here," she said. "Just because he lost his life here doesn't mean that we would absolutely have to do something."

A father of three as well as a grandfather of three, David Daniel moved to Panther Lake 10 years ago from Seattle. He and his wife, Linda, were married 36 years. They were high school sweethearts.

"He died the day after my mom's birthday," Sarah Daniel said. "My mom doesn't have any regrets on the way she said goodbye to her husband the morning of. He was doing what he loved to do on his motorcycle."

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