TERREBONNE, Ore. - All it takes is a split-second distraction to make a big Monday morning mess, as in the case of a spilled load of gravel on the O'Neil Highway in the Terrebonne area, Deschutes County sheriff's deputies said.
Deputies were dispatched around 8:40 a.m. to the reported non-injury crash on the highway near Northeast 17th Street northeast of Redmond, said Sgt. Kevin Dizney.
An investigation found that Kenneth McClain, 57, of Bend, was driving a Hooker Creek truck hauling two trailers of gravel heading west on the highway. The driver became momentarily distracted by an observation in the truck, and drove off the westbound shoulder of the road, down a sharp edge on the road, Dizney said.
That caused the loaded gravel containers to shift and the rear one to break free and dump its load onto the westbound travel lane and shoulder, the sergeant said.
The driver was able to return to the highway and pull off to the side, Dizney said, adding that on a busy road at morning commute time, "it could have been much, much worse in many ways."
Dizney stressed in a news release that the driver was not distracted by using a cellphone or any electronics in the truck cab, nor were alcohol or drugs involved.
When asked, Dizney gave the specific "distraction" – in this case, some mud on the armrest – but he stressed that the real message is that just about every driver can and often does get distracted, even for just a moment. Most of the time – but not always – nothing happens as a result.
In this case, "by the time he looked up, he was in the ditch," Dizney said adding that the driver, who was uninjured, actually "did a pretty good job" of keeping control of the rig.
The highway was restricted to one lane for about an hour while the gravel was removed, and another hour while the trailer was removed. The investigation continues, Dizney said, adding that the sheriff's office was assisted at the scene by Hooker Creek personnel, Oregon State Police and ODOT.