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King County, Burien Named in Multimillion-Dollar Claim

The Eakin Family
Clay and Barbara Eakin

The family of a woman killed by a drunk driver on State Route 509 last year also blames King County and the city of Burien. They filed a multimillion-dollar claim stating the accident could have been prevented if a guardrail had been replaced.

The $16.5 million claim comes on the heels of the 11-year sentencing of the man who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the accident. Christopher Wittman had been drinking and smoking marijuana at a 21st birthday party when he drove off a dead-end road in Burien. 

The Eakin Family
Here's what the dead-end road looked like at the time of the accident.

He flew over an embankment and landed on Clay and Barbara Eakin’s car below. The couple was on their way to Sea-Tac Airport for their honeymoon.

Barbara Eakin died. Her husband, Clay Eakin, is still dealing with brain and back injuries. Eakin’s lawyer acknowledges the driver was at fault, but alleges the primary cause of the accident was the fact that there was no barricade where the street ends.

Eakin says he was surprised by what he saw when he visited the dead-end road and looked out over the highway.

The Eakin Family
A guardrail has been placed at the end of the road since the accident.

“First of all, I looked across and could see how it would seem like the road continued to cross. And then [I] looked down, and just couldn’t believe that there was such a lack of protection there. I could see how the accident could’ve happened,” he said.

According to the claim, King County had plans to install a new barricade, but somehow it was not replaced until after the accident. Neighbors had also complained about the unprotected road. 

The county and city of Burien have 60 days to investigate and respond to the claim. If it isn’t resolved, Eakin and his stepdaughter say they will file a lawsuit.