Van rollover in mountains leaves one man dead

Linn County deputies are investigating a fatal crash involving a 10-person passenger van in a remote area of southeast Linn County.

The Linn County 9-1-1 dispatch center received a call at about 9:10 a.m. Monday reporting that a 10-person passenger van had crashed approximately 5.5 miles northwest of Blue River Reservoir near the intersection of U.S. Forest Service roads 1510 and 2820. The vehicle had left the roadway and rolled several times about 100 feet down an embankment.

One person died in the crash, said Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller. Four people were reported to have injuries, and three of those were transported by LifeFlight and Reach helicopters to Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend in Springfield.

Two victims, who returned to the Sun Motel where they reportedly had aparently been staying, were transported by Sweet Home FIre and Ambulance District personnel to Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital with various injuries. Fire Chief Mike Beaver said one victim had a broken arm and possible spinal injuries.

“They were just beat up –what you’d expect if someone was in a van rolling down a mountainside.”

He said the owner of Los Dos Amigos Mexican restaurant “helped us out a bunch” by translating for medics attempting to communicate with the victims.

Mueller said five people left the scene for an unknown reason before law enforcement arrived but they later returned or were located, Mueller said. They also were being evaluated by medics.

The embankment is so steep that deputies had to use rope rescue techniques to bring the victims up to the road, where they could be treated and transported by medics.

Sgt. Forest Brooks said the slippery conditions above the snow line apparently contributed to the accident.

“It sounds like they rolled off the roadway because of the slush on the road,” he said. “It was just a two-wheel-drive vehicle.”

Brooks said it took a while for officials to locate the crash, which they did with help from Verizon, which pinpointed the approximate area from which cell phone signals were coming.

“Once we got our mountain guys involved, they know the area pretty well,” he said.

Brooks said the men in the van were apparently part of a crew cutting boughs for the holidays.

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by Eugene Mountain Rescue, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers, and the Springfield Police Department. Medics from Springfield, and the McKenzie-Blue River fire departments also assisted.

Beaver said the actual accident site was out of SHFAD’s service area,

The names of the victims were not available at press time. Brooks said the dead man’s family is in Mexico and hadn’t been notified yet. He said that victim was from the Portland area.

Police do not know whether the victims were wearing seatbelts or if alcohol was involved. All victims are adults.