All the victims were agricultural workers, according to the union
ALBANY, Ore. — The victims of one of Oregon’s deadliest traffic accidents were farm workers traveling in a pickup truck at a time when farm workers typically head home after hard harvesting, said the state agricultural workers union and Mexican officials.
Authorities have yet to release the names of the seven people who died or four who were injured when a tractor-trailer pulled off Interstate 5 on Thursday and rammed the pickup truck while it was parked on the side of the road near ‘Albany, in an agricultural area of the Willamette Valley. .
But the union, the Woodburn-based PCUN, said in a statement on Friday evening that the 11 people in the vehicle were farm workers and that it had been in contact with some of their families to support them. He also offered his condolences to those affected by the tragedy.
“Right now, families are asking for safer routes for workers commuting after a hard day’s work,” said Reyna Lopez, the union’s executive director.
The Mexican consulate in Portland also said the victims were farm workers in a statement in Spanish posted on Facebook and Twitter.
“According to information provided by the Oregon State Police Bureau, seven fatalities were reported in the accident and four injuries, all of whom were believed to be farm workers of Mexican nationality,” the statement said.
The consul went to a hospital in Salem, the state capital, to offer assistance to the injured, who had been taken there for “urgent medical attention”, he added.
The consulate also said it was in close communication with law enforcement and was trying to locate family members of the deceased. He urged relatives of those killed or hospitalized to call the consulate.
The driver of the tractor-trailer who rammed the pickup truck, Lincoln Clayton Smith, 52, of North Highlands, Calif., was arrested Friday on suspicion of manslaughter, driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and assault, police said. He was being held without bond in the Marion County Jail.
It was unclear whether Smith’s case was assigned to the state’s public defender’s office or to a specific attorney. The office did not immediately respond to a message asking about it, and a lawyer whose name appears in court documents said she had not been officially assigned the case and could not comment.
During Smith’s arraignment, a district attorney said he refused a field sobriety test and was unable to concentrate and answer basic questions, the Salem Statesman Journal reported. . The prosecutor also said that Smith admitted to taking “speed” the day before the accident and that he was in possession of methamphetamine, according to the newspaper.
The DA said witnesses reported that the truck snuck on and off the road while traveling in the northbound lanes on Thursday afternoon before ramming into the van without first braking , according to the Statesman Journal.
The van was then pushed into the back of another truck parked out front, Oregon State Police said.
All of the victims were passengers in the van. Six died at the scene and another died after being airlifted to hospital, according to Oregon State Police. Information on the condition of the four injured has not been made public.
Bodies were seen covered in plastic in a nearby field after the crash, the Albany Democrat-Herald reported.
The accident is one of the deadliest in Oregon in recent years.
A head-on collision on a lonely road in Harney County, eastern Oregon in August 2018 killed a family of seven, including five young children. Eight people died in total.
In December 2012, nine people died after a tour bus rolled over icy Interstate 84 and crashed through a guardrail, plunging several hundred feet down a steep embankment. The bus was carrying around 40 people when the accident happened in an area near Pendleton called Deadman Pass.
Another accident in 1988, also near Albany on I-5, killed seven people and injured 37 others. Two infants were among those killed in the flaming pile-up of 23 vehicles.
Albany sits between Salem and Eugene and is approximately 70 miles south of Portland. I-5 is the main north-south highway on the West Coast.