Car traveling downhill at 100 mph crashes on U.S. Highway 26; road closed for 41/2 hours MondayExcessive speed was the apparent cause of a crash Monday morning 11 miles east of Seaside that killed two Portland-area teenagers and closed U.S. Highway 26 for 41/2 hours on the last day of the Labor Day weekend, according to Oregon State Police.
Claire Elizabeth Van Engelen and her passenger, Andrea Isabel Perez, died instantly when their Volvo spun out of control on a sweeping right-hand curve and hit an oncoming delivery truck shortly after 11 a.m.
The truck was then hit from behind by a pickup truck towing a 27-foot travel trailer. Neither of those drivers was seriously hurt.
OSP Lt. Dale Rutledge said the car was traveling downhill at about 100 mph.
"A witness, who admitted to doing over 80 mph, said the Volvo passed them like they were standing still," Rutledge said.
The crash happened just around a curve from the spot where OSP stopped former Vice President Al Gore for speeding last month, Rutledge said.
U.S. Highway 26 is "notorious" for speeding, especially that particular four lane section of highway, and especially with young people, Lt. John Wood, commander of the Astoria office of the Oregon State Police, said today. He said Senior Trooper Jim Pierce issued four speeding citations to teenage drivers there last week.
"I don't know if it's the thrill of going fast, or being in a hurry, or being bound up in traffic for so long, but that stretch has pretty consistently high speeds," Wood said.
The two women were headed to a birthday party in Manzanita, Wood said, possibly for Perez, who had just turned 18 on Saturday.
"It's terrible," he said. "Two beautiful young girls who had their whole lives ahead of them."
Wood said there's no indication that alcohol was involved, but tests are done as standard practice. It will be some time before results come back.
Joseph Todd, 39, of Vancouver, Wash., the driver of the Duck Delivery Produce truck, was admitted to Columbia Memorial Hospital to be treated for minor injuries. He was in good condition today. David Dublisky, 45, the driver of the pick-up truck was treated for minor injuries at Providence Seaside Hospital and released. His wife and 3-year-old son were not injured.
Usually the Astoria OSP office has two troopers on duty to patrol the highways of Clatsop County. But Wood used a federal grant to increase those numbers over the holiday weekend, fielding as many as he could, including Fish and Game officers. Five troopers were on duty on Friday, six on Saturday, four on Sunday and five on Monday, the day of the fatal accident. There were just two other accidents over the weekend, both of them non-injury. Six drunk drivers were arrested.
"We need to have more troopers on the road consistently," Wood said.