An impromptu jaunt to the beach turned surreal earlier this month when a college student from Pendleton watched a man mow down two pedestrians with his truck, then start to back up for another run at them.
Kayla Callaham's trip home to Pendleton this week for spring break was delayed when she testified to a grand jury in Lincoln County about the March 7 incident.
Just past midnight that day, Callaham and her friend D.J. Jager were keyed up. They'd just gotten back from an outing for residence hall presidents at Western Oregon University, where both attend college. The girls decided to drive to the beach in Callaham's red Pontiac Grand Am.
An hour later, they were cruising on Highway 101 near Lincoln City, looking for a gas station when things took a violent turn. Up ahead, Callaham said, a pickup blasted out onto the highway from a dead-end road on the beach side of the highway. The driver made a U-turn and started back down the dead-end street.
"We thought it was kids playing around," Callaham said.
The driver of the Chevy truck barreled back the way he'd come, she said. As the girls watched in horror, the truck hit a man, sending him flying off to one side.
What happened next was like a bad dream.
"He flipped another U-turn and he ran over another guy," Callaham said.
The second man lay in the road, his legs broken and a ligament detached from the bone.
The girls had come to a stop on the highway shoulder and Callaham had lowered her window to hear a woman scream, "Stop, just stop." They watched the truck speed toward the highway and halt at the stop sign.
Witnesses later told Callaham, the truck's reverse lights came on, indicating he was going to possibly come back for another pass. The sight of Callaham and Jager across the road may have caused the alleged driver, Anthony Daniel Painter, to reconsider.
"He threw it into drive and took off," Callaham said.
Before he roared off, Jager memorized most of the license number and the make of the vehicle. Callaham froze, trying to decide whether to follow the truck or offer her first-aid expertise. She decided on the latter.
The two injured men, part of a three-family group, were surrounded by people.
"Everyone was in a scramble," Callaham said. "They were all freaking out."
The 2005 Pendleton High School graduate tried to convince the group to leave the second man in the road until the ambulance came. She learned that he was a German who'd come to the United States exactly one year earlier.
The other man had an injured elbow and back and hip pain.
"They kept thanking us for stopping," Callaham said.
Lincoln City police officers who responded took down the truck's description and, six days later, took a Warrenton man into custody.
The families told the girls the two injured men had earlier chased off Painter and his friends from the German man's car. They remained outside checking other cars to ascertain whether the men had inflicted any damage or stolen contents.
Then Painter returned, they said, full of malevolent intent.
Callaham, a psychology major at WOU, started her summer break a day late after testifying to a Lincoln County grand jury.
Painter, 22, faces six charges: two counts of assault 2 (B felonies), attempted B felony, two counts of failing to perform driving duties and reckless driving. An arraignment is scheduled for May 4.
After their misadventure, the girls returned to campus about 4 a.m.
"We never actually made it to the beach," Callaham said.