Authorities ID Bend teen injured in Century Drive crash

Was wearing seat belt; family issues statement

BEND, Ore. - Deschutes County sheriff's deputies on Tuesday identified a 17-year-old Bend resident seriously injured Sunday morning when she lost control of her pickup on an icy stretch of Highway 372 (Century Drive) west of Bend.

Rebecca McElrath continues to recover at St. Charles Bend, said sheriff's Lt. Bryan Husband. No citations have been issued as a result of the investigation, he added.

Deputies said the teen's car swerved into the oncoming lane, where it was struck on the side by an SUV. They also said Monday their initial information about the teen's seat belt use was in error.

Sgt. Nathan Garibay wrote, "Initially, deputies were informed by witnesses on scene that the driver was not wearing her seat belt. Additional information learned today leads us to believe the driver was in fact wearing her seat belt, which is contrary to initial witness reports."

The sheriff's office provided this statement Monday from McElrath's family:

"Our daughter is doing very well. She is in stable condition and will hopefully be released from the hospital tomorrow. We are so very thankful for the quick actions of the emergency response folks, those first on the scene to support our daughter, Air Link and all of the doctors and nurses that helped our daughter get through this tough time.

"We are also so grateful for the wonderful outpouring of support from family, friends, Summit High School, Bend FC Timbers and our great community. In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations be made to Deschutes County Search and Rescue."

Two deputies, Bend Fire medics and ODOT were dispatched shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday to the reported two-vehicle crash around milepost 10.5 on the road to Mt. Bachelor, said sheriff’s Deputy Jim Whitcomb. The initial report was that a female was trapped in a vehicle after a possible head-on crash. An Air Link helicopter was placed on standby.

Arriving deputies found the eastbound lane blocked, with westbound traffic able to slowly move past the scene, Whitcomb said.

Witnesses told deputies a red 2001 Mazda B3000 pickup driven by McElrath was heading west at about 40 to 45 mph when the driver lost control on an icy section, swerving into the oncoming lane.

A 2010 Honda Pilot driven by Carlene Perry, 47, of Bend was unable to avoid a “T-bone” crash into the pickup, Whitcomb said. Witnesses said the SUV was going about 30 to 35 mph.

Several citizens stopped at the scene to help with traffic control and provide some immediate medical assistance to the teen, who was alone in the pickup and was removed from the wreckage by Bend Fire personnel, the deputy said.

A landing zone was set up just east of the crash scene, and both lanes were closed while the Air Link ambulance landed to take the teen to St. Charles Bend with what deputies said were serious injuries.

Whitcomb said Monday that contrary to what some witnesses initially told deputies, McElrath was wearing her seat belt at the time of the crash. 

The SUV driver and her passenger, a 10-year-old boy, were not injured, Whitcomb said, adding that both were wearing seat belts.

Both vehicles sustained significant damage, the deputy said, and air bags in both vehicles deployed.

“The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind the public to be extra mindful of the hazardous and varying road conditions that one may encounter while traveling to and from a sno-park,” Whitcomb said in a news release.

“Based on elevation changes and resulting temperature changes between our Central Oregon towns and the sno-parks, the road conditions will invariably change,” the deputy added. “There are areas of our mountainous roads that receive little or no sun throughout the day, which can result in black ice just around a bend in the road.”

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