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Korean National Extradited to Orange County to Face Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

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Youn Bum Lee, a South Korean national who flew to Seoul a day after he was involved in a fatal Orange County DUI motorcycle accident on the 55 Freeway in October 2005, is being extradited back to Orange County on vehicular manslaughter charges. The 41-year-old Lee, who was an executive with Hyundai, was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, felony DUI and felony hit-and-run in connection with the death of Ryan Dallas Cook, 23, of Huntington Beach. Our source for this blog was this news report in The Orange County Register.

On the day of the accident, Lee was driving after drinking heavily at a Hyundai company party. He crashed his SUV into a concrete barrier on the 55 freeway after which the vehicle stalled. Cook was unable to stop his motorcycle in time and struck the stalled vehicle. He was thrown on to the freeway and struck by other motorists. After this accident, Lee took a late-night flight to South Korea before he could be interviewed by police. Cook’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Lee, against Hyundai and other executives in Hyundai who they accuse of helping Lee to flee the country.

First of all, I’m glad that Youn Bum Lee is being extradited to face the criminal charges. And I hope he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I will also be watching the civil case, the wrongful death lawsuit that the Cook family has pending against Lee and Hyundai. The employer and senior Hyundai executives in this case should absolutely be held accountable for what happened to Cook. Lee got drunk on company-provided alcohol and apparently, no one took his keys away or even tried to stop him from getting behind the wheel.

Wrongful death lawsuits are usually filed by family members of deceased victims who have been killed because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. In this case, I believe that Cook’s family is entitled to compensation for the loss their loved one and for all resulting expenses and financial hardship such as funeral expenses, hospital bills and future loss of earnings. Lee and his employer must be brought to justice and held accountable for their wrongdoing.

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