Photo courtesy Javier Tejeda
Photo courtesy Javier Tejeda
A usually quiet stretch of Interstate 84 west of Boardman was the site of two terrible scenes Thursday, one of which stopped eastbound traffic for more than three hours.
Javier Tejeda and Tyler Hall were traveling eastbound on the interstate around noon when they saw a plume of dust and smoke just ahead of them, then heard and watched as multiple vehicles — a semi-truck, two pickup trucks and a small passenger vehicle — crashed into one another.
According to Oregon State Police, troopers believe that traffic had slowed or come to a stop due to construction work in the area when a semi truck, a passenger car, a pickup and another pickup towing a trailer crashed.
“It was terrible, it was awful,” said Tejeda, who works with Hall for Gordon’s Electric. He called 911 as Hall ran toward the crash, breaking out a windshield with a hammer, stabbing through an air bag and ripping a man’s seatbelt off so he could get him out of his vehicle.
According to state police, six patients were transported to various regional hospitals via ground ambulance and Life Flight with injuries ranging from critical to minor.
Tejeda said he described the horror of the scene to the Umatilla County dispatcher who answered his 911 call, but once he narrowed down the location of the crash was told he needed to be transferred to Morrow County for assistance.
“The phone (then) just kept ringing and ringing,” he said. He said it felt like more than a minute before he got through to a new dispatcher, a delay that he thought was too long with lives on the line. He gave as much information as he could, then started to help at the scene.
“There were injured people everywhere,” he said.
Tejeda said a girl was trapped in the backseat of a small car, her mother “freaking out” while Tejeda tried to calm her. He said a young girl was walking around the highway and another man was bleeding from his head. Other people were just driving slowly through the crash scene, which he couldn’t believe.
Multiple ambulances, both on ground and the air, responded. Eastbound traffic was stopped for more than an hour, then was diverted into one westbound lane for much of the day to get around the crash.
The extent of the injuries and the people involved was not available by press time.
But it wasn’t the only tragedy law enforcement had to deal with Thursday in that same area. OSP troopers were called to a separate crash about nine hours earlier and only a few miles east.
About 3 a.m., a gold Ford Ranger and white commercial truck were involved in a minor collision on the eastbound offramp to Tower Road. After the wreck, the driver of the Ranger ran from the scene and the truck driver called police, according to information from OSP. Once on scene, troopers learned the fleeing man had run toward the Tower Road overpass.
Troopers later found the man dead on the highway shoulder about 120 feet east of the overpass. As of press time, he has been identified only as a 28-year-old Portland man.
According to OSP, evidence at the scene indicated the man scaled the fence on the overpass and jumped, then was struck by an unknown motor vehicle that kept driving. Troopers believe the man may have been struck by a dark metallic gray vehicle.
Anyone with information regarding this incident who has not already spoken to investigators is asked to call the Oregon State Police Dispatch at 541-276-2121 and reference Incident # SP17409491. Trooper Mitch Pace from the Pendleton Area Command is the lead investigator.
Reporter Jayati Ramakrishnan contributed to this story.