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A 19-year-old Seattle man died Monday morning after an allegedly drunk driver careened into a homeless encampment near an interstate exit ramp, striking his tent, authorities said.
The victim, Walter L. Burton, died at the scene, the Washington State Patrol said.
The driver, Oscar de Jesus Gutierrez, 33, fled the area, leaving his car crushed against a tree on the side of Interstate 5 just north of downtown Seattle, State Patrol spokesman Rick Johnson told NBC News.
Although there were other tents at the site, no one else was there when police arrived, Johnson said.
After finding the suspect at a home listed on the vehicle's registration, authorities transported Gutierrez to a hospital and charged him with vehicular homicide, Johnson said, adding that officers smelled alcohol on his breath.
Gutierrez may also be charged with hit and run that led to death, Johnson said.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who declared a state of emergency over the city's homeless problem last year, called the issue a "growing crisis" during a news conference on Monday held near the scene of the crash.
"This once again points [to] the complexity and tragedy that we face in this city," Murray said, according to NBC station KING. "It is obvious that we cannot allow people to stay in a place that is not safe for them."
He added: "I signed the state of emergency as I would in an earthquake."
Two people were killed and three others were injured during a shooting at the city's so-called "jungle" encampment last year. At roughly the same time, Murray was delivering a special address on homelessness just 2 miles away.