A Life Flight Network helicopter flies over Gales Creek toward the crash on Sunday, September 12. Photo: Chas Hundley
An Oregon City resident is the latest person killed in a vehicle crash on Highway 6 between Banks and Tillamook this summer.
According to the Oregon State Police, the crash occurred near mile post 33 in Washington County on the east slope near the Coast Range summit.
OSP said that emergency personnel were first dispatched to the scene around 5:15 p.m. Sunday, September 12; a Forest Grove Fire & Rescue spokesperson and a notification from the Pulsepoint app listed 5:30 p.m. as the dispatch time. The first unit from Forest Grove Fire & Rescue arrived on the scene at 5:54 p.m., according to FGF&R spokesperson Matt Johnston.
During the initial response, a first responder arriving at the scene described damage to the vehicle and the boat as "extreme," according to emergency dispatch audio reviewed by this publication.
"We had a very serious scene with someone trapped and unverified reports of someone possibly ejected," Johnston said in a social media post Monday morning.
A preliminary investigation by OSP was conducted and results released publicly late Monday morning.
According to the investigation, Gene Carlson, 66, of Oregon City, was towing a 17-foot boat eastbound with a Ford F150 when, for unknown reasons, the Ford drifted off the Wilson River Highway, losing control and striking a guardrail.
After striking the guardrail, the truck rolled.
"Carlson sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased," OSP's press release read.
Johnston noted the multi-agency response that took place. Forest Grove Fire & Rescue began cutting into the vehicle with assistance from Banks Fire District 13. Emergency crews began clearing the highway to allow a Life Flight Network helicopter to land on the pavement.
Deputies from the Washington County Sheriff's Office began hiking down the hillside into the surrounding Tillamook State Forest, searching for the person reported to have been ejected from the vehicle. Ultimately, it was determined that those reports were incorrect, Johnson said; the driver was the sole occupant of the vehicle.
The highway was closed for approximately two hours Sunday evening, with the assistance of the Oregon Department of Transportation.
"These scenes in forested areas are difficult to get timely information out to citizens with no cell phone coverage for responders or travelers. Whether it’s in the coastal range or heading over Santiam Pass," Johnston said.
He offered several tips for those traveling in the area:
Be prepared for delays no matter the time of year. Winter weather can cause issues, wrecks can happen any time, wild fires could become problematic.
Be prepared with items to get through delays. If you have medical conditions, have extra supplies.
Be prepared with food, snacks, water, blankets, games for kids, etc.
Check road conditions before you travel. Do not rely on GPS systems. ALWAYS go to tripcheck.com before you set out on your travels. As they say, ‘Know Before You Go’.