Woman charged in crash that killed 3 took vodka shots before driving, records say

A woman who caused a two-car crash that killed three people and seriously injured two others was taking vodka shots moments before she got behind the wheel with her young son in the car, according to court documents.

Amber Mae Smithlin, 36, was charged Tuesday with three counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault.

She pleaded not guilty at arraignment Tuesday afternoon. Retired Judge Brian Tollefson, filling in on a temporary basis, set bail at $750,000.

The crash took place Aug. 6 on state Route 702 and Eighth Avenue South, about five miles east of McKenna.

Killed were Kum Ki, 70; his wife, Dong Ki, 67; and her friend, Kyung Lee, 58. All three were from California — the Kis lived in Fullerton and Lee lived in Buena Park.

Only the driver of their car, Kum Ki’s 59-year-old brother, survived.

He suffered broken ribs, a fractured vertebrae and collapsed lungs, records show.

After more than a week in critical condition, the 59-year-old was released from the hospital Tuesday and escorted back to his home in California.

Also injured in the crash was Smithlin’s 5-year-old son, who told authorities after the crash that he could not feel his legs.

Charging papers give this account of the collision:

The California man was driving a Toyota Rav4 west on Route 702 and was T-boned by Smithlin after she ran a stop sign.

The Toyota was pushed more than 20 feet off the highway and landed on its roof on a brushy hillside.

Smithlin’s Dodge minivan careened through the intersection after hitting the SUV, striking a street sign and knocking down a power pole, which started a 10-acre brush fire.

Troopers estimated Smithlin was driving 35 mph when she hit the SUV, which was traveling about 55 mph.

Dong Ki and Kyung Lee were pronounced dead at the scene. Kum Ki died shortly after being taken to an area hospital.

Smithlin suffered a broken arm and underwent surgery shortly after the crash.

She allegedly told troopers she had been taking shots at a friend’s house but left abruptly with her son after getting into an argument with her boyfriend.

A witness and trooper noted they could smell alcohol on Smithlin’s breath.

Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.
Stacia Glenn; 253-597-8653, @stacia_glenn