Oregon State Police on Saturday identified two men who were killed and a woman passenger critically injured on Highway 97 near Chemult late Friday morning when one of the men tried to pass a truck in a no-passing-zone and his pickup collided with an oncoming van.
The crash, which occurred just after 11 a.m., closed the highway for nearly two hours, troopers said. It was open to one lane of alternating traffic for several hours after that, causing miles-long backups at the start of the Labor Day weekend.
Troopers said a 1989 Jeep pickup driven by Kenneth C. Frazier, 44, of Gilchrist, was heading south on the highway when he tried to pass a southbound truck in a no-passing zone.
A 2005 Chrysler van heading north, driven by Earl R. Johnson, 73, of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., tried to avoid the oncoming pickup, but the two collided in the highway's northbound shoulder, troopers said.
The two drivers were pronounced dead at the scene. Johnson's passenger, Joanne Johnson, 71, also from Lake Havasu City, suffered critical injuries and was flown by AirLink helicopter to St. Charles-Bend, where she had improved to fair condition Tuesday, according to officials.
Troopers investigating the crash said they don’t believe alcohol played a role, and that all of the people in both vehicles were wearing seat belts.
OSP was assisted at the scene by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Chemult Rural Fire District.