ALBANY — Two Sweet Home men were killed and a Philomath man was injured in a head-on crash Wednesday afternoon on Highway 34 near Looney Lane, near Tangent, according to Oregon State Police.
About 4 p.m., a pickup traveling eastbound crossed into the westbound lanes and smashed into a semi-truck, witnesses said.
"Witnesses said it just veered over,” said Lt. Bill Fugate, Oregon State Police spokesman. The cause of the crash remains under investigation, he added.
The pickup driver, Donald L. Roberts, 24, and passenger Mason D. Tagen, 25, both of Sweet Home, were killed.
Roberts had to be extricated from the vehicle and was taken by helicopter ambulance to Salem Hospital. He had serious injuries, said Assistant Chief Cary Vonasek of the Tangent Rural Fire District. He later died.
Scott D. Lillis, 51, of Philomath was driving the Knife River semi-truck, which was hauling gravel. Lillis was transported by ground ambulance to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis with a leg injury.
The highway was blocked in both directions due to the wreck, and was closed for several hours.
Joe Fennimore of Salem, who witnessed the crash, said that the pickup veered from the eastbound fast lane, through the center turn lane, and through both westbound lanes to hit the semi, which flipped over after the impact.
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The semi left skid marks 25 yards long on the roadway before gauges were dug into the pavement.
“Probably about 10 of us tried to help out,” Fennimore said. He added that a retired medic was helping to direct motorists who got out of their car to assist.
Oregon State University student Jeff Pierce, a former Philomath firefighter, also provided aid, keeping the pickup driver’s spine aligned.
He said he spied a huge plume of dust come up as he was driving and thought that it was just farm activity. Then he saw the wreck.
“I’m very happy there are people who will step up and help,” Pierce said, adding that he also was driving on Highway 34 last week, and stopped to help, when a woman rear-ended a semi-tanker that was stopped at a railroad crossing.
“I’ve seen two (crashes) in a week. … It makes me more conscious of my driving. I wish people would be more conscious of theirs,” he added.
Albany Fire Department and the Oregon Department of Transportation were at the scene.