Man charged in fatal crash

By Jayson Jacoby July 23, 2012 12:56 pm

By Jayson Jacoby

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A Baker City man has been charged with manslaughter for a May crash on Highway 7 that killed a Pendleton woman.

Derrick A. Coates, 24, was arrested just after midnight Saturday morning and taken to the Baker County Jail. Bail was set at $75,000. Coates was scheduled to be arraigned at 1:15 p.m. today.

Coates is charged with two felonies — second-degree manslaughter and third-degree assault — in the May 28 crash that killed Leta Louise Currey, 46.

Second-degree manslaughter is a Measure 11 crime in Oregon; if convicted on that charge, Coates would be sentenced to a minimum of 75 months in prison.

A Baker County grand jury indicted Coates on the charges. A warrant for his arrest was issued on Friday.

Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff said he waited for an Oregon State Police accident reconstructionist to finish a report on the crash before bringing the case to the grand jury.

Shirtcliff said the evidence shows that Coates was driving too fast to maintain his lane of travel on a corner near Denny Creek Road junction on Highway 7 about one mile west of Salisbury Junction.

The suggested speed on that corner is 30 mph.

The site is about 11 miles from Baker City.

The crash happened about 12:30 p.m. on May 28.

Shirtcliff said there is no indication that Coates was intoxicated.

“This is solely about driving in a reckless fashion,” Shirtcliff said.

Currey, along with Joanne Mohrland, 53, of Walla Walla, Wash., and both their husbands, were traveling together in a string of four motorcycles.

The group was riding east, toward Baker City, when Coates, who was driving a 1994 Nissan pickup truck toward Sumpter, crossed the center line.

Coates’ pickup collided first with Leta Currey’s motorcycle, then hit Joanne Mohrland’s motorcycle.

Currey was pronounced dead at the scene.

Mohrland was flown by LifeFlight to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, where she initially in critical condition but later released.

Shirtcliff said Mohrland is recovering in a care facility.

Neither of the women’s husbands was hurt.

Coates suffered minor injuries that didn’t require treatment at a hospital.