Semi collision spills apple load, closes freeway

<p>Oregon State Police Lt. Greg Sherman inspects the scene of the two-semi crash Monday morning on Interstate 84 about a mile east of Pendleton. No one suffered life-threatening injuries in the wreck.</p>

A semi driver and family of three suffered non-life-threatening injuries in a crash Monday morning a few miles east of Pendleton. Oregon State Police Lt. Greg Sherman of Pendleton said both drivers received citations in the wreck that closed the westbound lanes of the interstate for several hours.

It was the sixth wreck on area roads since Saturday morning.

A Flying J semi hauling two empty fuel tanks hit the back of another semi at about 8:30 a.m. on the westbound side of Interstate 84 near milepost 212. The collision smashed the Flying J cab and tore open the trailer, littering the roadside with apples. State police and Pendleton firefighters and ambulance crews were on the scene within minutes.

Alberto Gamez, 46, of Caldwell, Idaho, was going only a few miles per hour in the right lane because one of the semitrailer’s tires wasn’t working, Sherman reported. His wife and 12-year-old daughter were in the cab with him.

Oregon law requires semi drivers to pull over and wait for help in that situation, Sherman said, but Gamez tried to limp the big rig to Pendleton to have a tire changed.

The driver of the fuel tanker, Wade Wood, 38, of Ontario, was looking at his cellphone, according to OSP, and didn’t see the semi.

Witness Dan Turner said pieces “flew everywhere.” Turner, 52-year-old semi driver from Sunset, Utah, said he was hauling a 10,000-pound load in his trailer when the Flying J vehicle passed him coming down Cabbage Hill. Turner said he called 9-1-1 seconds after the crash.

“I’m really amazed the poor guy in the Flying J truck even walked out of it,” he said.

Wood got out and was conscious though bloody while Pendleton medics assessed him, placed him on a stretcher and hauled him away in an ambulance.

Gamez and his wife complained of back pain, and all three would get a medical evaluation, according to Sherman, but no one seemed to have serious injuries.

Sherman said the empty fuel tanks probably made a big difference in how quickly the vehicle stopped. If the tanks were full, the crash could have been much worse, he said.

State police gave Gamez a ticket for operating an unsafe vehicle, and cited Wood for following too close, Sherman said. State police and road workers blocked off the interstate near the crash and routed traffic through Pendleton until about 11 a.m.

Other crashes this weekend were also due to people not paying attention and going too fast, Sherman said.

• A Walla Walla woman was injured in a single vehicle rollover Sunday morning on the southbound side of Highway 11 near milepost 22.5. Nancy L. Marks, 65, took her eyes off the road at about 7:30 a.m. while driving a maroon 2003 Ford Mustang, state police reported. The car left the roadway and Marks overcorrected. The Mustang rolled once and came to an uncontrolled stop.

An ambulance took Marks to Walla Walla General Hospital for evaluation. Two passengers, Christopher Marks, 70, and a 12-year-old, complained of pain and also received medical evaluations.

Two Hermiston men were in unrelated motorcycle wrecks Saturday.

• Steve M. Loomis, 51, of Hermiston, crashed a 2006 BMW L1200 motorcycle while going too fast through a curve at 5 p.m. on Highway 395 near milepost 53B, state police reported. The motorcycle slid onto the shoulder and landed in a river. Sherman said Loomis called state police Monday and said he was released from St. Anthony Hospital, Pendleton.

 And Scott W. Conklin, 52, of Hermiston, drove a 2004 Honda Victory motorcycle into a metal shoulder reflector at 8:18 p.m. on the westbound side of Interstate 84 near milepost 239. He dumped the machine on its side, state police reported, and a La Grande ambulance took him to St. Anthony Hospital.

• Another driver fell sleep at the wheel Saturday at about 4:13 p.m. in the westbound lane of I-84 near milepost 235. Alex Bonnecaze, 25, of Anchorage, Alaska, was not harmed, but his 2010 Toyota Corolla sustained damage to its left front and and driver-side window from stricking a fog marker.

• And state police cited Elizabeth Zuniga, 23, of Walla Walla, for following too close after the 2005 Chevrolet Impala she drove hit the rear of another vehicle Saturday at 6:49 p.m. in the southbound lane of Highway 11 near milepost 35.

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Contact Phil Wright at pwright@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0833.

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