Powell Butte man dies, a week after I-5 work zone crash

Widow, Knife River vow to make work zones safer

WILSONVILLE, Ore. - (Update: Ronald Davis dies at Portland hospital; statement from widow, company official)

A 57-year-old Powell Butte man has died in the hospital, a week after his Knife River construction pickup was struck in an Interstate 5 work zone by a truck driver who left the scene but was soon arrested, Oregon State Police reported Wednesday. 

Ronald Ernest Davis died in the hospital of injuries suffered in the June 6th crash, said Sgt. Kyle Hove. A Knife River official said he passed away at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday.

Davis and a fellow Knife River construction worker were injured in the crash, which occurred around 3:15 a.m. that morning as they were clearing the roadway on I-5 northbound at milepost 280, at the Marion-Clackamas County line south of Wilsonville, troopers said.

The white box truck that struck their pickup continued northbound, failing to stop at the scene, OSP reported. Troopers located the truck a short time later and arrested the driver, Colin Michael Cook, 27, of Fairview. Cook remained held Wednesday in the Marion County Jail as the investigation continues, Hove said.

Cook was held without bail on charges of failure to perform the duties of a driver (hit and run) in an injury crash, two counts of second-degree assault, reckless driving, criminal mischief and two counts of recklessly endangering highway workers.

Troopers identified the two workers as Davis and Antonio Manuel Bahena, 20, of Troutdale. Davis, the more seriously injured worker, had been in critical condition at Portland's Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, a spokeswoman said earlier.

In announcing Davis's passing Wednesday, the company’s Bend office shared two statements, one from his wife, Sheila:

“I woke up today a widow. My best friend and husband of 24 years passed away last night in my arms. I loved him so much. This did not have to happen, and I am going to do whatever I can to keep it from happening to someone else. We need to work together – the public, the construction industry, ODOT, law enforcement, all of us – to make work zones safer for everyone.”

Brian Gray, president of Knife River’s Northwest Region, also issued a statement:

“Ron’s death is a tragedy for his family and a huge blow to us. He was part of our Knife River family for almost 25 years.

“What we feel today, and what we have felt for the past eight days, is profound sadness. 

“His death should not be in vain. If this raises awareness about driving safely around construction and helps to make work zones safer for our team members and the public, that would be a fitting legacy for Ron. We will work with ODOT, law enforcement and whomever we need to in order to make that happen.”

Chris Doan, general manager for Central Oregon's Knife River operations, told NewsChannel 21 last week that Davis was a seasoned worker and was put on this project because of his expertise. 

"Ron is a 30-year employee, not necessarily with Knife River, but he has been in the construction industry for 30-plus years," Doan said. "A seasoned veteran of the highway construction industry."

He also said while their workers are aware of safety measures and precautions, it was the driver who did not maintain proper control through the work zone. 

The Oregon Department of Transportation said once drivers are alerted to an upcoming work zone, it's their job to slow down and move over if necessary. Traffic fines are doubled in work zones, and drivers face more risk of getting hurt than workers.

"As we look at the statistics of what is happening on the highway, we know that whether it is a construction worker, a motorist, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian,  in every 21 hours, one of them is hurt," said Peter Murphy, Central Oregon's public information officer for ODOT. 

As emergency crews worked at the scene, a black Jeep SUV was reported as a reckless driver traveling northbound toward the crash scene, passing stopped traffic on the shoulders. The vehicle stopped at the crash scene and troopers took the driver into custody for several charges, including reckless driving.

OSP said it was seeking any witnesses that might have been in the area or have any information regarding this incident, and they were asked to call OSP Dispatch at 503-375-3555.

Brian Gray, president of Knife River's Oregon operations, issued this statement after the crash occurred:

"This is a terrible situation that did not have to happen. Our team members were working in the closed lane, on the other side of traffic barrels when their vehicle was hit. We ask two things: Please keep our injured team members and their families in your thoughts, and please pay extra attention and slow down in work zones so something like this never happens again."

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