By Steve Guntli
A Blaine man will serve four years in prison for a fatal hit-and-run near the border crossing in January 2015.
Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder handed down the sentence on March 30. Andrey Kirichkov, 27, will serve 48 months in prison for hit and run in a fatality accident. Kirichkov, a permanent U.S. resident who has lived here since he was 2 years old, also faces the possibility of deportation, as he is not officially a citizen.
Kirichkov was driving a green 1993 Ford Ranger on January 22, 2015 at approximately 5:30 p.m. A man on a bicycle, later identified as Douglas Oliver Benton, 53, attempted to diagonally cross the busy intersection at H Street and SR-543, from the southeast corner to the northwest.
A witness, who was waiting at the stoplight in the passenger side of a southbound vehicle on SR-543, told police Benton was wearing dark clothing, no helmet and did not have proper lighting on his bike. The witness said she was able to see him thanks to two white plastic buckets Benton was carrying on his bike handles. Kirichkov drove through the intersection at a high speed and struck Benton with his truck. Witnesses say he then fled the scene, continuing north towards the border crossing and heading west on D Street.
Benton died at the scene from severe chest trauma. Benton had lived in Blaine for 31 years, and worked as a commercial fisherman. He had lost his driver’s license about 10 years prior to his death
Police began a street-by-street search for Kirichkov’s vehicle based on witness description. About three hours after the accident, Kirichkov returned to the scene and turned himself in. He told officers he knew he hit someone, but needed to return to his family’s home on E Street to care for his mother, who had recently suffered a stroke. He was also concerned the police would discover his driver’s license was suspended.
Kirichkov, a self-employed contractor, had a long history of reckless driving. He had been charged in 2005 and 2006 for reckless driving, and had nine citations for driving with a suspended license. Kirichkov was not impaired or inebriated at the time of the accident, according to the charging papers.
Leandra Matson, Benton’s sister, said while her family is relieved Kirichkov got the maximum allowable sentence for his crime, she takes little comfort in the ruling.
“None of this is going to bring Doug back,” she said.
Matson said she believes Kirichkov should have been tried for vehicular homicide, based on a witness’ testimony that Kirichkov drove through the intersection at a high speed.
Starck Follis, the chief criminal deputy public defender, said the state never pursued a vehicular homicide charge since there was no way to measure Kirichkov’s speed at the time of the accident, and the driver had a green light and little time to react.
Matson expressed frustration that Kirichkov wasn’t charged for driving on a suspended license, a charge the courts dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on the hit-and-run charge. Matson said people have made hurtful comments to her and her family about Benton’s death, blaming him for the accident for not wearing a helmet or reflective clothing.
“The blame has all been laid on Doug, and that’s not right,” she said. “[Kirichkov] should never have been there in that truck. He made a decision to get behind the wheel when he knew he wasn’t supposed to, and now my brother is dead. Doug wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t deserve this.”