Oregon State Police photo Two people died in a multi-vehicle crash Sunday evening on Interstate 84 about 10 miles east of Pendleton. The crash resulted in the freeway’s westbound lanes being closed between Ontario and Pendleton for about 19 hours.
By Pat Caldwell
and Kelly Ducote
The (La Grande) Observer
A multi-vehicle crash Sunday night near Pendleton that closed the westbound lanes of Interstate 84 for 150 miles and left two people dead also reverberated across the region in terms of economic impact and stalled commerce.
The Oregon State Police, collision reconstructionists and Oregon Department of Transportation officials searched for answers at the scene of the crash — near Deadman’s Pass on Cabbage Hill — into Tuesday. OSP said initial information indicated a commercial truck traveling west near milepost 221 lost control on ice and slammed into the side of the road with its trailer partially on the roadway.
Later, two commercial trucks crashed into the trailer. During the secondary crash, two 51-year-old truck drivers died — Mario Santana of Richland, Wash., and Gerald Alexander of Houston. A fourth truck later crashed into the two vehicles involved in the secondary collision.
Besides being icy, the freeway was shrouded in dense fog at the time.
The crash prompted ODOT to close the westbound lanes between Ontario and Pendleton, effectively severing the vital commercial truck route from Boise to Portland.
Eastbound lanes remained open.