WARM SPRINGS, Ore. - Speed is being investigated as a cause of a three-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 26 on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation late Monday afternoon that killed three people and injured four others, one seriously, Oregon State Police said Tuesday.
The crash, which occurred near milepost 86 around 4 p.m., and subsequent investigation forced closure of the highway for 5 ½ hours, causing lengthy holiday-weekend traffic backups and detours onto roads on the reservation and other highways between Western and Central Oregon.
An initial investigation found that a black 2007 Chevy Malibu driven by Nathan Verhaeghe, 31, of Spokane, was heading west when it struck the rear of another westbound vehicle, a 2006 Toyota Matrix driven by Adam Clausen, 37, of Portland, said OSP Lt. Cari Boyd.
The crash pushed the Matrix into the oncoming lane, where it was struck by a white 2013 Chrysler van driven by Robert Burke, 34, of Reno, Nevada, Boyd said.
Clausen and one of two passengers in his car, Shannon O’Leary, 39, of Portland, died at the scene, as did Burke, troopers said. Clausen’s second passenger, a 4-year-old child from Portland, was taken to St. Charles Bend with minor injuries.
Burke’s van had two passengers. One, Rachel Burke, 29, of Reno, Nevada, was flown to St. Charles Bend with serious injuries, Boyd said. The second passenger, a 22-month-old child, also from Reno, was taken by ambulance to the Bend hospital with minor injuries.
Vergaeghe was flown by air ambulance to the Bend hospital with minor injuries, the trooper said.
“Speed and other contributing factors are being investigated as causes of the crash,” Boyd said in a news release.
OSP was assisted at the scene by the Warm Springs police and fire departments and ODOT.
The area was reported by ODOT and motorists to have bare pavement and icy spots at the time of the crash.
ODOT reported the highway was closed from milepost 71 to 96, between Government Camp and Madras, with detours in place on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation.
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