Blue ribbons

Philomath soccer players wore blue ribbons in their hair, as seen here during senior day activities Thursday, as a show of support for teammates Megan McGaughy and Malia Taufa'asau.

BRAD FUQUA, PHILOMATH EXPRESS

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional information (Oct. 19 and Oct. 20).

A light blue Nissan Maxima inexplicably revved its engine and plowed into two 14-year-old girls in a busy parking lot Tuesday night at Philomath City Park, witnesses told Philomath Police.

Both freshman soccer players on Philomath High School's squad, Megan McGaughy suffered serious injuries and was transported to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. Teammate Malia Taufa'asau endured minor injuries.

Philomath Police officers Kyle Heese and Mark Koeppe were first on the scene after a call came in at about 6:40 p.m.

"Every single person that we talked to said, 'I heard the car rev up, I saw the car speed up and I don't know why' and that a 14-year-old went up on the hood, went airborne and hit the ground," Heese said.

The primary question stumping police is why did the 16-year-old female driver step on the gas instead of hitting the brakes? Witnesses told police that the incident occurred when an 18-year-old, Richard "RJ" Evans, jumped on the hood of her car.

"He basically comes up to her car on foot and says he's going to jump on the hood — using choice words," Heese said. "She says, 'no, don't do that' and he jumps on the hood of her car anyway and she, for an unknown reason, hits the gas and speeds up."

Many people who attend JV soccer games park at Philomath City Park. The incident occurred not long after the game had ended and several people were in the area. It was dark at that time of the evening.

"There wasn't a whole lot of debris or anything like that," Heese said. "For whatever reason, she hit the gas. There was no sign of impairment. I did run her through some tests; she did volunteer her blood and urine later on."

Heese said that upon arrival, McGaughy was not able to interact with him.

"She was not coherent and could not answer any questions," Heese said. "She couldn't talk, her eyes were open and she was wearing a soccer uniform, but couldn't tell us what she had been doing."

Medics arrived and Heese said she was quickly transported to Good Samaritan Medical Center in Corvallis. McGaughy was then transported to Emanuel Legacy in Portland reportedly with a fractured skull and brain injuries that would require the need for a neurosurgeon, Heese said.

"There was actually a physician on scene when I got there and he stayed on scene for a while," Heese said. "There was also a professor at OSU, he's an engineer that specializes in transportation safety, and he was one of the firsthand witnesses. He estimated the vehicle was going 35 mph."

The Benton County Major Traffic Collision Investigation Team was called to the scene and the vehicle was seized. Heese estimated the area was cleared by 10 or 11 p.m. Tuesday and follow-up interviews with witnesses were to be conducted Wednesday and Thursday.

Ken Rueben, police chief, said the driver was initially cited with reckless driving and reckless endangerment and Wednesday afternoon, police arrested her on a charge of felony assault in the third degree. The assault charge supersedes the original citations.

The teen, a former Philomath High student, has been released from custody with an ankle monitor and at her grandparents' house in Corvallis, where she had been living. The district attorney's office has not released the suspect's name with the investigation ongoing.

Among the state statute's definitions for assault in the third degree is if a person "recklessly causes serious physical injury to another by means of a deadly or dangerous weapon." Heese said "a vehicle can be considered a dangerous weapon."

Evans, a Corvallis resident, was charged with disorderly conduct.

Philomath Superintendent of Schools Melissa Goff said Wednesday, "The hearts of our students and our staff go out to our injured students and their families."

Goff added that high school principal Brian Flannery and staff are providing support to families.

In a show of support for their classmate, students wore McGaughy's favorite color to school Thursday.

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