More than six months after Michael Dimitras allegedly killed two friends while driving drunk from a Fourth of July rafting trip, the Fair Oaks man was arrested Friday on felony vehicular manslaughter charges -- counts the victims' families say are too lenient and too late.

"It's finally cathartic that he's finally arrested, but I'm disappointed and shocked that the charges are not gross negligence," said Peggy Fong, who launched a letter-writing campaign to the District Attorney's Office after her daughter's death seeking more stringent charges.

Dimitras, 19, made arrangements to be arrested at his attorney's downtown office, said Lana Wyant, spokeswoman for the district attorney. He was booked into jail on suspicion of two counts of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury and driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher.

Dimitras is accused in the deaths of 18-year-old Kendall L. Lui and 19-year-old Brian Haight, who were both in the back seat of Dimitras' Toyota 4Runner when he lost control in Fair Oaks. Two other passengers were injured.

The group of friends, all former classmates at Bella Vista High School, had returned home from their first year away at college and celebrated the Fourth of July rafting along the American River.

According to a California Highway Patrol report, Dimitras admitted to investigators he drank four or five Coors Light beers while rafting; he was later found to have a blood-alcohol level of 0.09 percent.

A surviving passenger told detectives Dimitras was driving about 70 mph in a 45-mph zone, and that he and the other youths were telling him to slow down.

At that point, according to the CHP report, Dimitras apparently tried to slow down but lost control on Folsom Boulevard, west of Hazel Avenue. He overcorrected and hit a utility pole, instantly killing Lui and Haight.

Lui, a freshman at University of California, San Diego, and Haight, a UC Berkeley student, have been described as academic standouts. Lui was a graceful dancer and honor student, Haight, an amicable history buff who knew how to meld comedy with intellectual curiosity.

Months after the deaths, their families say the loss remains palpable and raw.

Friday also marked what would have been Haight's 20th birthday. His parents, Doug and Susan, watched videotapes of the day they brought their only son home from the hospital in 1987. They also read his memorial notice on the obituary page. Their son's bedroom remains as it was when he left to go rafting with friends on the Fourth of July.

At the Fong home, every day, if only for a few minutes, a mother watches videos of her daughter dancing. Fong sees her daughter at 4, tap dancing at the Sue Geller Dance Studio or her daughter as a young woman, dancing on stage, fluid, and graceful.

In the past six months, both families said they have had to learn the intricacies of the legal system to advocate for their children, while also trying to grieve. And they said have grown frustrated by the time from the fatal wreck to Dimitras' arrest.

"There are so many things that should have been done differently; he should have been arrested immediately," said Susan Haight. "Everything was delayed, and I don't understand why. God, it just gets harder every day."

Wyant said the delay was not an aberration.

"We needed to have all of the information we can possibly have before we file," she said after Dimitras' arrest.

Every case is different, she said, and authorities have to take into account different variables in deciding whether to pursue ordinary negligence or the higher charge of gross negligence.

Dimitras, if convicted on all counts, could face a maximum sentence of eight years and four months in state prison, according to the District Attorney's Office. The higher charges of gross negligence that had been sought by family members could have resulted in two 10-year terms.

Dimitras is scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 13.