Two Sisters residents killed in crash on Hwy. 20

Swerved to avoid deer; car was struck by oncoing pickup

SISTERS, Ore. - Two Sisters residents were killed late Saturday morning when a driver swerved to avoid a deer and lost control of his car on rain-slickened Highway 20 just west of Sisters. That caused the car to slide, and it was struck in the side by an oncoming pickup truck, Deschutes County sheriff's deputies said.

The victims were identified Saturday night, after family notificatons, as driver Austin Jacob McNelis, 23, and passenger Kayla Marie Basham, 18, both of Sisters.

There were no serious injuries in the pickup, driven by Andrew Smolich, 30, of Bend, but two of the five people in the truck went to St. Charles-Bend by private car for treatment of minor injuries, said sheriff's Lt. Chad Davis. Smolich is a manager at Smolich Motors of Bend.

Deputies were dispatched shortly before noon to the crash on Highway 20 at milepost 99, about a mile west of Sisters, Davis said. They arrived to find the two occupants of a 1984 Toyota Celica had died at the scene.

Davis said an investigation found that McNelis had been driving east on Highway 20 when a deer crossed the highway in his lane. He tried to avoid the deer by trying to veer around it, causing him to lose control of the car.

The car slid on the wet roadway into the path of a westbound 2012 Dodge pickup driven by Smolich, and it was hit on the driver's side. Both vehicles came to rest in the westbound lane, Davis said. Smolich was accompanied by passenger Brittany Smolich, 28, and three juvenile passengers.

The lieutenant said neither alcohol nor speed appeared to be factors in the crash, which remained under investigation. Any witnesses to the crash were asked to contact the sheriff's office through the dispatch number, (541) 693-6911.

The crash and investigation shut the highway for a time, and one lane remained closed for several more hours, with ODOT flagging traffic through in alternate directions.

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