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April 30, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Wedgwood DUI crash victims face long recovery, husband and father says

Dan Schulte, right, and his sister, Marilyn, talk for the first time to the media Tuesday about the DUI crash that killed their parents, Dennis and Judith Schulte, and injured Dan Schulte’s wife and newborn son last month when they were struck while crossing a street in Wedgwood.  (John Lok / The Seattle Times)

 

Dan Schulte, whose wife and newborn son were severely injured in a March 25 crash in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood, said this morning that both face a “long road ahead,” but he’s hopeful about their recovery. Karina Ulriksen-Schulte and their son, Elias, suffered traumatic brain injuries in the crash that claimed the lives of Dan Schulte’s parents.

Addressing the media for the first time since the crash, Schulte said his wife and son continue to show improvement despite their devastating injuries. Schulte was joined at a news conference at Seattle Children’s hospital by his sister, Marilyn Schulte, and physicians who have treated Ulricksen-Schulte and Elias.

Schulte said his wife has “a pretty long road ahead of her.”

One of her team of physicians, Saman Arbabi, said Ulriksen-Schulte, 34, suffered a stroke shortly after the accident and sustained damage to the left side of her brain. She has since stabilized to the point where she has been moved from Harborview Medical Center to a skilled nursing and rehabilitative facility, but the communication center of her brain was permanently damaged and it is unknown how completely she will recover.

Arbabi said that while the damage sustained cannot be undone, it’s possible that other areas of her brain will develop new pathways and take over the work of the injured areas.

Only time will tell, Arbabi said.

Elias is now being treated at Seattle Children’s hospital, he said. He has learned to feed again, and a shunt was inserted into his brain to drain fluid that had built up following the accident. There are still unknowns about his recovery, but “he’s come a long ways,” Schulte said.

One of the most pressing questions is whether his sight has been damaged and, if so, to what extent, said one of the infant’s team of doctors, Francois P. Aspesberro. He said Elias, who was 10 days old at the time of the crash, is resilient and has remained in motion through his recovery. His prognosis is aided by the fact that a newborn’s brain still has potential for development and growth, he said.

“I’ve definitely had moments of despair. I have a new life, and I have to deal with it,” Schulte said, but “I definitely have hope for the future.”

Schulte’s parents, Dennis and Judy Schulte, had just moved to Seattle from Indiana to be near Schulte, his wife and newborn son.

Dennis, 66, and Judy Schulte, 68, were on a walk with Ulriksen-Schulte and Elias on March 25 when they were struck by a pickup as they crossed  Northeast 75th Street.

The driver of the pickup, Mark W. Mullan, was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault and is being held on $2.5 million bail. Prosecutors say after the fatal collision, Mullan’s blood-alcohol level  was measured at .22 — or about three times the legal limit for driving.

According to court documents, Mullan, 50, has been arrested at least five times in Washington for driving under the influence. Three were in the early 1990s — two in Puyallup in 1990 and 1991, and one in 1994 in King County.  In the past six months, he was arrested on suspicion of DUI twice.

According to prosecutors, Mullan was driving with a suspended driver’s license at the time of the fatal crash. He also did not have an ignition interlock device on his pickup, which he had been ordered to install.

While Schulte this morning declined to discuss his feelings about Mullan, he said he hopes his family’s tragedy “can result in some positive outcomes.”

The crash was entirely preventable, he said, and drunk driving laws need to be “tougher.”

One week after the Schultes died, a 58-year-old Seattle woman was killed in a crash with a wrong-way driver on Highway 520 near the University of Washington. Michael A. Robertson, 25, has been charged with vehicular homicide and ordered held on $1 million bail. Police and prosecutors say Robertson was driving under the influence when he crashed head-on into a car driven by Morgan Williams.

In the wake of the three deaths, Washington lawmakers plan to overhaul the state’s DUI laws.

A photo taken the day before the accident shows Dan Schulte, center, and his wife, Karina, with their newborn son, Elias. At the left is Dan’s mother, Judith, and at right is his father, Dennis. (Photo courtesy the Schulte family)

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: DUI, Seattle, vehicular homicide

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