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Two former Olympic students killed in car accident

Joshua Isley pitched for the Olympic High School baseball team for four years. Derek Murphy spent hours shooting free throws and tried every year to make the Trojan varsity basketball squad.

The two 21-year-olds, members of the Olympic class of 1999, died in a car accident just after 2 a.m. Friday, Feb. 15 in Kirkland. They were riding home with a 20-year-old classmate after a night drinking at a bar in Seattle’s University District.

“It doesn’t seem real at this point,” Dallas Howell, a classmate and friend of the three men, said on Wednesday, Feb. 20. “All I could do was scream and cry when I heard about it. Now I’m in a state of confusion. All I know is that I have to go to a funeral tomorrow. ... I have to put my best friend in the ground.”

According to a report from Kirkland Police Department, the driver of the Nissan sedan failed to make a curve, sending the vehicle down a steep embankment. The car struck several trees, which caused it to roll over several times before coming to a halt in the parking lot of an apartment complex.

Kirkland Police Officer Mike Murray said there was evidence the driver was exceeding the posted 25 mph speed limit.

Isley and Murphy were ejected from the vehicle and were pronounced dead at the scene by the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. Murray said he was not sure if they were wearing seatbelts.

The driver was wearing his seatbelt, and was treated at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for two fractured vertebrae and broken ribs. He reportedly was in possession of a false Maryland identification card and told investigators he had been drinking earlier in the evening at a bar with Isley, Murphy and another unidentified friend.

“The investigation is still going on,” Murray said Thursday, Feb. 21. “We hope to have it completed by the first part of March.”

Isley was living with the driver and the driver’s relatives in Kirkland while attending Shoreline Community College. Murphy recently moved to Seattle from Tracyton to be closer to his job.

Both were remembered fondly by friends.

“Derek was a guy who worked hard at everything,” said classmate Kyle Baumgartner, a student and baseball player at Central Washington University in Ellensburg who learned of the accident while playing baseball in Idaho. “He’d stay up all night shooting free throws. It was a dream of his to make it on the varsity team but he never made it.”

“He just moved to Seattle,” Howell said of Murphy. “He was doing as well as he could over there and now he’s gone.”

Isley, who started playing baseball for the Trojans as a freshman after a levy failure cut junior high school sports, was known as someone who could be counted on.

“He was a good kid,” former OHS baseball coach Robin Campbell said. “He worked hard and was an easy-going, fun-loving person who did his part to be a great member of a team.”

Howell said he first met Isley when they were both 12 and waiting to take the bus to school.

“He tried as hard as he could in school,” Howell said. “He gave 100 percent at everything he did. I wish I could be like that. No matter what he did, even if he wasn’t No. 1, he couldn’t have done anything else at what he did.

“I was going through some hard times a year ago and Josh is the only reason I’m still alive. Now, it just doesn’t seem fair that he’s gone.”

Baumgartner was Isley’s teammate and the two walked together during their high school graduation ceremony.

“He was the guy you could call any time of the night,” Baumgartner said. “He’d do anything for a friend.”

Howell and Baumgartner said they aren’t mad at the driver, who is being investigated for vehicular homicide and driving under the influence.

“I talked to 30 people about this thing and haven’t come across anybody that’s angry with him,” Baumgartner said. “He has to live with this for the rest of his life. He’s got a long road ahead of him, but fortunately there’s a lot of people that will be supporting him.

“He didn’t do anything on purpose. He just made a bad decision.”

“Nobody can blame him for it. There are thousands of kids my age that do this,” Howell said. “I used to be one of these people, until last week, where we’d just go out and party and have fun. He made a poor decision — it’s not his fault at all.

“If nothing else can be gained out of what has happened it’s that there’s a valuable lesson for me and all my friends and people that didn’t know them is that alcohol impairs your ability to operate a vehicle — whether it’s a couple of beers or you’re totally sloshed.”

Having lost their friends, Howell and Baumgartner said their lives have changed in the past week.

“This is a major impact on my life,” Howell said. “My life has changed forever since last Friday. The whole way that I view things, taken things for granted. ... I was going to call Josh the day before that happened. I had just turned 21 myself two days prior and I was totally psyched about going out and having a beer with my best friend. Now, I can never do that.

“We had both been waiting for a long time for both of us to be 21. A whole new world was going to open up. Now, drinking doesn’t even excite me anymore, there’s nothing cool about it to me. I guarantee you I won’t ever get behind the wheel after drinking and I won’t drive without my seatbelt on either.”

“This puts everything in perspective and makes you realize what’s important in life,” Baumgartner said.

A service for Isley was Thursday, Feb. 21 at Silverdale Baptist Church. A memorial service for Murphy is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. today, Feb. 23, at Island Lake Community Center.

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