Five people traveling on Oregon highways Tuesday were killed by trees falling onto the road in the span of four hours, casualties of an intense windstorm that left 200,000 people without power.
The National Weather Service’s Portland office recorded hurricane-force winds along the northern Oregon Coast yesterday afternoon: 86 miles per hour at Cape Perpetua and 74 mph in Manzanita. The Coastal Range also experienced severe winds, ranging from 50 to 73 mph—tropical storm force.
It was those winds that toppled a “large diameter” tree onto the roof of a Ford F-150 traveling east on U.S. Highway 26 2 miles west of Camp 18 at 11:39 am Tuesday. Three people—the driver, Justin Nolasco Pedraza, 19, of Seaside, and passengers Bonifacio Olvera Nolasco, 41, of Seaside and a 4-year-old girl—were found dead inside the truck, Oregon State Police say.
The investigation of the crash site closed Sunset Highway for five hours Tuesday, police said. “It was determined the tree fell directly onto the Ford F150 roof as it was passing by,” Oregon State Police said in a press release.
Wednesday saw the shoulders of Highway 26 covered in a green carpet of fir branches and needles for much of its Coastal Range stretch.
The deaths in the F-150 were the most horrifying of three incidents Dec. 27 in which people died from trees falling onto the highway in the windstorm.
At about 2 pm, a tree fell onto Interstate 84 near Bonneville Dam and struck the passenger side of an eastbound Dodge Ram, state police said. The passenger in the vehicle, 20-year-old Paula Chamu Sanchez of Baker City, was killed by the tree. The driver, Rick Williams, was transported to a Portland hospital.
About 90 minutes later, a tree fell onto a Peterbilt truck on U.S. Highway 26 in Wasco County. The driver, James Darron Lyda, 53, of Prineville, lost control of the truck and veered off the highway. He was pronounced dead at the scene—the fourth person killed by a tree on U.S. 26 on Tuesday.