U.S. Highway 30 closed for seven hours; crash is under investigation by Oregon State PoliceExcessive speed is the apparent cause of a crash that killed a Bellevue, Wash., couple at 2:49 p.m. Tuesday afternoon about 15 miles west of Clatskanie.
The accident closed U.S. Highway 30 for seven hours, causing severe disruption for North Coast drivers.
Lt. John Wood, commander of the Astoria office of the Oregon State Police, said a full-size Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by Bradley A. McKay, 34, of Clatskanie, crossed the center line and struck an oncoming Volkswagen Beetle head on, killing the car's occupants instantly. Their names have not yet been released.
Wood said the accident happened on a curving stretch of highway with two eastbound lanes and one westbound lane. He said McKay was in the passing lane in a sweeping righthand curve when he crossed the center line, striking the car. McKay allegedly didn't claim that anything distracted him, and alcohol did not appear to be a factor, Wood said.
Weather apparently wasn't a factor either. "It was sunny, dry, and hot. There were no adverse road conditions," Wood said.
McKay was taken to St. John Medical Center in Longview, Wash., to be treated for minor injuries. Another car, driven by Gloria Lankford of Pilot Rock, was involved in the aftermath of the accident, but she and her two passengers were not injured.
The bodies of the Bellevue couple were extricated from their car about four hours after the crash by members of the Knappa-Svensen Volunteer Fire Department, who responded with their "Jaws of Life" tool. Nick Hansen, a Knappa firefighter, said the extrication took about half an hour.
Personnel from the Clatsop County Sheriff's Office, the Clatskanie Police Department, the Clatskanie and Westport fire departments and the Oregon Department of Transportation assisted at the scene.
Wood said the crash is being investigated by an Oregon State Police reconstructionist with assistance from members of OSP's Astoria and St. Helens patrol offices. When it's finished, the results will be presented to the Clatsop County District Attorney's Office for review. The DA will then decide whether to present the case to a grand jury. No charges have been filed against McKay.
Traffic was backed up for miles on U.S. Highway 30 after the crash, and Wood said there was no easy detour. Among those caught in the massive traffic jam were Clatsop County Commissioner Lylla Gaebel and her 3-year old granddaughter, who were returning from a trip to Longview at 4:15 p.m. Gaebel said she had gotten almost to the top of Bradley Hill when she saw an ODOT sign that said, "Accident ahead."
"I got over the hill and I saw a huge line of cars and no traffic coming from the other direction. We sat there for a while and then cars started turning around. When I saw big trucks turning around, I decided to turn around, too," Gaebel said.
She first tried to take the Westport Ferry, but "it was backed up almost all the way to 30," she said. So she went all the way back to Longview and crossed back into Oregon on the Astoria Bridge. She said she finally got to the Astoria Port Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m., and was able to give a presentation in opposition to Measure 34, the 50-50 plan for the Tillamook State Forest (see story, Page 3).
"I don't know how much room is available on those ODOT sign boards," Gaebel said, "but more information - like 'road closed' or 'three-hour delay' would have been helpful." She said it's the second time she's been stuck in that particular stretch of road because of an accident.