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Highway 20 crash west of Philomath

A police pursuit Sunday afternoon ended in a head-on collision just west of Philomath. Both drivers remained hospitalized Monday.

A man who was allegedly driving a stolen pickup that struck another vehicle during a police pursuit outside Philomath on Sunday afternoon was in critical condition on Monday, while the other driver also remained hospitalized.

Cameron Scott Avery, 27, of Lebanon was driving a 2014 Dodge Ram flatbed truck that had been reported stolen out of Linn County at around 3 p.m. on Sunday in the Philomath area when a Benton County sheriff’s deputy recognized the vehicle and initiated the pursuit, according to Benton County Undersheriff Greg Ridler.

With a Philomath police officer joining the chase, Avery fled west on Highway 20, Ridler said. In the vicinity of Woods Creek Road, Avery swerved into oncoming traffic, either to avoid a spike strip or pass a slower vehicle, and struck a 2003 Toyota Camry driven by Stephen Paul Swanson, 60, of Philomath, hitting it virtually head-on, Ridler said.

The Camry had severe front-end damage and came to rest in the middle of the highway. The truck was sheared in two by the impact and landed upside-down off the side of the road.

Avery got out of the damaged pickup and tried to flee on foot before being apprehended, according to the undersheriff.

“He told us he had a gun, which he did not have,” Ridler said. “We now know he was a convicted felon.”

Both drivers were taken to area hospitals for treatment of injuries sustained in the crash. There were no passengers in either vehicle, and no other injuries were reported.

Swanson was in fair condition Monday at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, while Avery was in critical condition at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis, according to hospital personnel.

Ridler said no charges had yet been filed against Avery in the case.

“We’re going to investigate further and consult with the District Attorney’s Office for charges when he’s released from the hospital,” Ridler said.

According to Oregon’s electronic court records database, Avery has been arrested more than half a dozen times in Linn County since 2010, with convictions for assault, strangulation, delivery of marijuana, theft, assaulting a public safety officer and unlawful use of a weapon.

Sunday’s police chase was apparently the second in as many days for Avery, according to Ridler.

At about 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, a deputy spotted the stolen truck in Philomath and gave chase. The vehicle drove through Corvallis and headed east on Highway 20 toward Albany, but the deputy broke off the pursuit in the vicinity of Garland Nursery because of the pickup’s high speeds and reckless maneuvers, Ridler said.

Sunday’s pursuit lasted less than two minutes and might also have been called off for safety reasons if it hadn’t been cut short by the crash, the undersheriff added.

“It’s kind of a judgment call on what is the best course of action,” Ridler said.

“Obviously, in this case we’re glad it wasn’t a fatality, but it’s always a difficult call.”

The Corvallis and Philomath fire departments, Corvallis Police Department and Oregon Department of Transportation assisted at the scene of Sunday’s crash.

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