Trucker arrested in Santiam Pass hit-and-run

Tricky pass travel; La Pine, Paulina also get plenty of snow

POSTED: 2:03 PM PST January 30, 2013    UPDATED: 12:16 PM PST January 29, 2013 
ELLIS, ALVIN JAMES
SANTIAM PASS, Ore. -

Oregon State Police arrested a commercial truck driver late Monday night, more than two hours after a minor-injury hit-and-run crash on slick, snowy Highway 20 near Santiam Pass.

Around 9:20 p.m., a semi truck was heading west in Highway 20 near milepost 78 (the Hogg Rock area) when the semi-trailer, which didn't have required chains, slid sideways on the snowy roadway into the eastbound lane, where it collided with a 2004 Ford Focus with two occupants, troopers said.

A witness said the semi-trailer noticeably shook upon impact, troopers said.

The truck and semi-trailer stopped momentarily on the side of the highway, witnesses said, then continued on, leaving behind vehicle debris evidence.

OSP, Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Department, Black Butte Ranch Fire and Police departments, and ODOT responded to the scene.

The Ford's two occupants were taken by ambulance to St. Charles-Bend for treatment of minor injuries. They were identified as driver Hermilo Estrada II, 41, and passenger Holly Hamilton, 49, both from Bend.

Around midnight, an OSP trooper spotted a truck and semi-trailer westbound on Highway 22 near Salem and stopped it.

Troopers said a subsequent investigation led to the arrest of driver Alvin James Ellis, 59, of Beaverton. He was lodged in the Marion County Jail and held Tuesday morning on $10,000 bail, facing a felony charge of failure to perform the duties of a driver involved in an injury crash.

The crash and investigation shut the pass for close to an hour.

A big winter snowstorm slammed the Oregon Cascades Monday, prompting ODOT to issue a chain or traction tire requirement. On Santiam Pass, the new snow could be measured in feet.

Learn the latest conditions on all the passes and area roads at KTVZ.COM's ODOT TripCheck page.

Mt. Bachelor and Hoodoo each reported a foot of new snowfall by Tuesday morning, meaning plenty of fresh powder for skiers and snowboarders.

The National Weather Service winter storm warning for the area extends until Wednesday morning, and while Bend hasn't seen any snowfall, higher elevations of the High Desert have seen plenty.

In eastern Crook County, Paulina resident Leslie Burckard said there was a half-foot new snow by Tuesday morning and nearly 16 inches total on the ground, with deep, drifting snow making at least one road (Weberg) impassable and Paulina School on a two-hour late start for classes.

La Pine resident Angela Coble reported more snow and strong winds Tuesday morning, with 8 inches of new snow and a total of three feet on the ground.

Meanwhile, along Highway 20 near Suttle Lake, cars and trucks lined the road late Monday, taking off and putting chains on.

One truck driver who's been driving for 10 years said he's seen a lot of accidents because of careless driving.

"Be extremely careful -- extremely careful, take it easy and don't rush," he said.

Once you got to the top of the pass,-near whiteout conditions made it difficult for drivers. One semi was forced to stop near the summit of the pass and blocked traffic for several hours.

As the snow continues to pile up over the next few hours, those who travel the highway the most ask you to take your time.

"Your life is worth a lot to you, and you could lose it in an instant if you're not careful," said the semi driver.