The vehicle, with a passenger still inside, is pulled from Gales Creek. Photo: Chas Hundley
GALES CREEK – A police pursuit that started Friday morning near North Plains on Highway 26 ended when the driver struck a spike strip near the Gales Creek Shell station on Highway 6, lost control, crashed through a tree and then ended up in the middle of Gales Creek, prompting a rescue effort from dozens of emergency vehicles, and closing the highway.
Highway 6 reopened around 11:15 a.m,. according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Mark Povolny, an officer with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the pursuit started when a North Plains Police Officer on the Glencoe Road overpass above Highway 26 near North Plains clocked a vehicle driving more than 90 miles an hour west on Highway 26.
The officer attempted to pull over the vehicle, but the driver accelerated away.
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A police chase ensued, with Oregon State Police and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office lending their aid. As the pursuit progressed onto Highway 6 past Banks and into the Gales Creek community, a Washington County Sheriff’s deputy placed spike strips on Highway 6 across from the Gales Creek Shell Station, but then attempted to remove them upon realizing that the vehicle was out of control.
However, before the strips could fully be removed, the vehicle struck the strips with one tire, lost control, crashed into a tree and then into the rain and snow melt swollen Gales Creek, ending up in the middle of the creek.
Across the street at the Shell gas station, Dawn Haynes was pumping gas and said she saw it all happen. According to Haynes, a sheriff’s officer told a truck driver to get back in his truck several times as the speeding vehicle was approaching, and the officer threw spike strips out into the road.
The vehicle struck the strips, went airborne, and went down the embankment into the creek, according to Haynes. The vehicle crashed so hard that the engine was completely separated from the vehicle, according to Povolny.
Somehow, the driver was able to exit the vehicle, and began to be swept downstream several hundred yards. Officers attempted a rescue, and a Tillamook-area ambulance crew that happened to be in the area was able to pull the driver out of the water.
It was at this point that the driver told the ambulance crew that he had a female passenger in the car that was still trapped.
The driver, who had a felony warrant for his arrest, was transported to a Portland hospital.
At this point, what came next was described by Povolny as “an unbelievable life-saving effort” involving at least 12 fire and rescue crews, police agencies, tow truck companies, and ambulance crews.
The vehicle, partially submerged, was sitting in the middle of Gales Creek, as a deep and fast-moving current, moving quickly from heavy rain and melting snow that had caused flooding in Gales Creek just days before. Inside, a woman with serious injuries was trapped.
Police officers stripped off their gear to attempt a rescue. A boat was placed in the creek and crews affixed chains to the vehicle from tow truck companies that had responded to the scene—Gales Creek Towing, Cop’s Towing, and Hillsboro Towing— and dragged the vehicle to the bank.
Richard Gales of Gales Creek Towing runs toward the crash with a chain. Photo: Chas Hundley
At one point, the vehicle became fully submerged, dunking the woman, who was not named, underwater.
Once on the bank, crews slowly brought the vehicle up a steep embankment to the highway, where rescue crews were able to extricate the woman and load her into an ambulance. She was transported with serious injuries to a Portland Hospital.
The crash is still under investigation by Oregon State Police; more information, including the name of the driver, some footage and photos from law enforcement, is expected to be made available in the future.
On scene were Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, Banks Fire District 13, Metro West Ambulance, a Tillamook-area ambulance, North Plains Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, Forest Grove Police, Beaverton Police, Oregon Department of Transportation, Gales Creek Towing, Cops Towing, and Hillsboro Towing.
At least a dozen agencies, with more than two dozen vehicles, responded to the scene. Photo: Chas Hundley