FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - Two high school seniors about to graduate were killed after a suspected drunk driver rammed into the back of their car on Interstate 5 in Tukwila Wednesday Night.
Derek King, who would have turned 18 on Thursday, died at the scene. Nicholas Hodgins, 18, died Thursday afternoon at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The driver of their car, Anthony Beaver, was treated and released from the hospital Thursday.
The news is devastating to students and staff at Decatur High School in Federal Way, from where the boys were set to graduate on Saturday. A memorial sprang up Thursday at the school's marquee sign along South 320th Street.
"It's been very emotional for the school, it's been very tough," said Nelson Atkinson, 18, a close friend of the victims. "Nick and Anthony and Derek, they've been close to everyone."
Atkinson said if it wasn't for a last-minute change of plans, he may have been in the car too. He said a group of students had gone to Sky High, a trampoline recreation center in Bellevue that evening.
"Just all the seniors go down, have a fun time. Supposed to be a fun trip" Atkinson said.
The Washington State Patrol says the three students were traveling southbound in a Honda Civic at about 10:30 p.m. Their car stalled and they couldn't to make it to the shoulder. Beaver stopped the car on the freeway and turned on his emergency blinkers.
A Ford Explorer driven by Alexander Peder, 50 of Kirkland ran into the back of the Honda "with great force," say troopers.
"A couple of my friends were in the car right behind them, right behind the... car that hit them, and they had to swerve out of the way. It was just brutal."
The Highline School District confirms all three teens in the crash were enrolled in culinary courses at the Puget Sound Skills Center. Friends say they talked about opening a restaurant someday.
"They were great at it, they made great food, funny, hilarious," said Atkinson.
"[Derek] was a hardworking kid, he never got in trouble, he was always helping out the teacher," said classmate Luisa Gallardo. "I had him for horticulture, and he was really helpful, he was a nice kid."
"[Nick] just lived life to the fullest, he just went out there, have fun, cheerful guy, class act," said Atkinson.
King and Hodgins were supposed to graduate high school on Saturday, from the culinary course next week.
"It tampers it. This is a joyous time for our kids, families and communities. These kids are great kids who were all loved in the community," said Federal Way School District spokesman Joshua Garcia.
"I'm sure the students are planning to commemorate them in some way," said Atkinson. "We're still going to have them in heart, they're still going to be there."
Many students gathered on the lawn in front of the school to mourn the victims. They are also meeting with counselors.
"That's our worst nightmare," said parent Simone Thompson. "I'm sure these parents are waiting for their sons to come home and celebrate the fact he's getting out of high school, making college plans, life plans with their kid and this person took him."
Police arrested Alexander Peder, 50. He is facing two charges of vehicular homicide. Troopers say alcohol was a factor. KING 5 has learned Peder has a history of DUI arrests.