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South Korean fugitive gets 9 years in prison for deadly Orange County car crash

December 7, 2009 |  7:13 pm

A fugitive who fled to South Korea after an alcohol-related fatal car crash in Orange County was sentenced today to nine years in state prison, prosecutors said.

Youn Bum Lee, 42, pleaded guilty last month to a felony count of vehicular manslaughter, gross negligence while intoxicated and a sentencing enhancement for fleeing the scene of a crime, the Orange County district attorney's office said.

Ryan Dallas Cook was riding his motorcycle in the carpool lane on the 55 Freeway in Santa Ana when the fatal crash occurred in October 2005, the Orange County District Attorney said.

Before the accident, Lee and six co-workers had consumed 14 bottles of soju, a Korean rice wine, before heading to a karaoke bar where they continued drinking, according prosecutors.

Lee was driving his SUV with the headlights off and crashed into the center median of the 55 Freeway. Cook then smashed into the rear of the vehicle and was thrown onto the freeway, where he was run over by several other vehicles, prosecutors said.

Cook, 23, of Fountain Valley was a student at Golden West College in Huntington Beach.

After the accident, Lee fled the scene and left the next day for South Korea, according to prosecutors. He was arrested there in December 2008 on a fugitive warrant and was returned to the United States in January.

-- Robert J. Lopez