Chad Niegel was driving home from Oregon State University Tuesday shortly before noon when the Pontiac G6 ahead of him suddenly veered to the right.
Niegel, 45, of Stayton was headed north on Oakville Road. The driver in the car ahead tried to get back on the pavement but appeared to overcorrect, sending the Pontiac nose-down into a water-filled ditch at the intersection of Oakville and Walnut Street.
Niegel pulled over, called 911 and ran to check on the driver, who had smashed into the windshield and knocked a jagged hole into it.
The man was unconscious and bleeding badly, both from the head and arm. "He just filleted his arm," Niegel said, shaking his head.
Niegel couldn't get the door of the Pontiac open to check further on the man, but he stayed to watch until paramedics arrived to force the door and lift him out and into an ambulance.
The Linn County Sheriff's Office, which is handling the case, did not yet have information late Tuesday on the man's name, age, hometown or extent of injuries, nor which hospital was treating him. According to the Sheriff's Office, however, he was alive.
That might not have been the case if factors were different. Niegel and the Albany Fire Department both noted the ditch where the Pontiac landed was only partially filled with water, not always the case during a rainy Oregon winter, and the car landed upright, rather than rolling onto its side.
Also, the car's position in the ditch was not visible from the roadway and Niegel said no one else stopped when he ran to check.
Niegel said he's studying agriculture at OSU after a long career in health administration. Classes at the university begin Jan. 8.