The family of one of two girls killed Monday night in a crash caused by racing near Port Orchard said they don’t blame a man who police said was leading the race and who has been charged with vehicular homicide.
The two victims — Shanaia R. Bennett, 17, of Gig Harbor and Rebbekah Barrett, 18, of South Kitsap County — were in a car driven by Barrett. They were playing a racing game with Barrett’s 20-year-old boyfriend, Robert Rundquist Jr., who was driving a pickup truck, according to the Kitsap County sheriff’s office.
Rundquist has been charged with vehicular homicide with bond set at $100,000. Charging documents suggest he was leading the street race, and a game where two cars continually pass the other.
Bennett’s family said they forgive Rundquist for what happened.
“There’s no way in the world that he should be blamed for what happened,” said Bennett’s sister, Tatiana Bennett.
Theresa Bennett, mother of Shanaia, also defended Rundquist.
“It was not his intent, he loved them both,” she said. “He called one ‘friend’ and he called the other ‘my girlfriend,’ so no, he was not trying to do anything vicious at all.”
At one point, witnesses told deputies, Barrett’s car and Rundquist’s truck were side-by-side on the two-lane road, exceeding the 35 mph speed limit by at least 30 mph. Barrett’s car flew off a curve and hit a tree, killing both girls.
A 17-year-old girl in the back seat of Barrett’s car survived the crash. She was extricated from the back, and treated for injuries at Tacoma General Hospital, which would not return calls seeking her condition.
“They were best friends from birth,” said Theresa Bennett. “They were born into this world best friends, and they left this world best friends, together.”
Bennett’s brother-in-law, James McIntyre, said Shanaia Bennett had “the absolute best voice.”
“She sang all the time, so talented,” he said.