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OSP IDs 2 truckers killed in fiery Hwy. 20 head-on crash

One of several crashes on slick E. Oregon roads

HARPER, Ore. - (Update: OSP identifies drivers killed in crash)

Oregon State Police on Sunday identified two semi-truck drivers killed in the fiery head-on crash of their rigs Saturday morning on U.S. Highway 20 in Eastern Oregon.

Troopers responded shortly after 9 a.m. to the crash at milepost 216 west of Harper, in Malheur County, Lt. Steve Mitchell said.

A preliminary investigation found that a white 2016 Kenworth commercial truck and trailer driven by Brian Brunscher, 37, of Springfield, was heading east when for an unknown reason, it went into the oncoming lane and collided head-on with a westbound truck and trailer, an orange 2015 Freightliner rig driven by James Shorten, 55, of Portland.

Both rigs burst into flames and the two men died at the scene, Mitchell said.

The westbound rig was being followed by a green Jeep Wrangler driven by Leonard Herr, 60, of Middleton, Idaho, and a white Kia Spectra driven by Albert Nasby, 52, of Fruitland, Idaho. The Jeep struck the rear trailer of the westbound truck and the Kia hit the rear of the Jeep. Airbags deployed in both cars, but no injuries were reported to the two drivers, each alone in their vehicles.

The drivers and sole occupants of the two commercial rigs were confirmed as having died at the scene.

Highway 20 was closed for more than 12 hours while crews worked to put out the fire, investigate the scene and remove the vehicles, Mitchell said. About 400 gallons of diesel fuel spilled onto the road. 

Speed and weather conditions are believed to be contributing factors in the crash, the worst of several across Eastern Oregon on Saturday as slick, icy roads led to several crashes.

OSP was assisted at the crash scene by the Malheur County Sheriff's Office, ODOT, Ontario Fire and Rescue, Ontario Haz-Mat, Vale Fire and REscue, Steve Rich Environmental Services and Haren-Wood Funeral Chapel.

A more than 20-mile stretch of Highway 20 was closed between mileposts 189 and 223  due to the crash investigation and icy road conditions. 

I-84, meanwhile, was closed for a time eastbound at Exit 302 in Baker City due to several vehicles, including semis, crashing on icy roads near milepost 351, in the Ontario area.

I-84 eastbound reopened around noon, though ODOT said travelers should expect delays and single-lane traffic near milepost 351. 24 miles west of Ontario.

Highway 26 also was experiencing icy conditions, ODOT said, and also could close if traffic increases.

Eastern Oregon travelers were advised to drive with extra caution, as icy conditions are present along numerous highways and local road. Turn off cruise control, slow down and be prepared for black ice, said ODOT spokesman Tom Strandberg. You can visit www.oregon.gov/odot/pages/winter-driving.aspx for winter driving tips, videos and more winter safety information.

Travelers also were advised to stay on main highways and not follow GPS navigation directions onto unfamiliar roadways that might not be passable in winter conditions.

Check our ODOT TripCheck page or call 511 / 800-977-6368 for update conditions.


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