Five semi trucks involved
A total 44 head of black Angus cattle were struck and killed in a rapid series of crashes on U.S. Highway 97, about 14 miles north of Madras, late Sept. 6.
Five commercial trucks struck the cattle, which belonged to the R2 Ranch and had broken through a stretch of fence near milepost 77, according to Oregon State Police, which is investigating the accidents.
Senior trooper Clint Prevett reported that the crashes occurred in close succession at about 11:45 p.m., and involved five semi tractor and trailer rigs, two of which were more severely damaged and had to be towed from the scene. No drivers were injured.
"The truck drivers said there was a herd of about 100 traveling down the highway," said Prevett, who was the first officer on the scene. "The driver of the truck that was totaled was northbound; he goes around the corner and all the cattle were on the highway and stuck between two guardrails. The others involved were all traveling southbound."
Prevett said that when he arrived at the scene, there were many dead and dying cattle. "I get up there and, oh my gosh, it's mayhem," he said.
The first two vehicles -- a Freightliner semi with a trailer, driven by Michael J. Pender, 57, of Mission, Texas, and a Kenworth semi with two trailers, driven by Jeremy Paul Fields, 37, of Tumtum, Wash. -- were towed by Ira's Towing.
The other three vehicles, which had relatively minor damage, and their operators were: a Peterbilt semi and trailer, driven by Nasib Singh Garcha, 47, of Live Oak, Calif.; a Freightliner semi and trailer, driven by Juan Orozco Oliveros, 32, of Visalia, Calif.; and a Kenworth semi and trailer, driven by Bakhshish Khurd, 56, of Bakersfield, Calif. The three operators were able to drive their vehicles from the scene.
The manager of the ranch and a ranch hand both responded to the scene and took care of the cattle, which had been in a separation pen and had broken down a fence, Prevett said.
The stretch of highway, which is considered "open range," was partially closed for several hours as OSP and Oregon Department of Transportation employees assisted the R2 Ranch manager with removing the dead cattle from the highway.
The injured cattle were put down by the manager and ranch hand, said Prevett.
Under Oregon law, in areas such as that section of open range, cattle may run at large. Motorists who strike the cattle may be liable for damages.
Prevett doesn't believe that any of the vehicles were traveling too fast. "Amazingly, none of the semis hit each other," he said.
The 60,000-acre R2 Ranch is one of Oregon's largest cattle and alfalfa ranches.
For information on livestock districts and open range, visit www.oregon.gov/ODA/AHID/livestock_id/openclosed_range.shtml.
OSP and ODOT would like to remind all drivers of the possible dangers associated with animals on or near highways. They offered the following driving tips to help prevent future accidents:
. Be attentive at all times, especially sunset to sunrise for any potential hazard on or near the highway.
. When driving in areas that have special signs indicating the possible presence of animals/wildlife use extra caution because these signs are posted for a reason.
. Remember that the presence of any type of animal/wildlife could also mean that others are nearby.
. When you see an animal/wildlife near or on the roadway, reduce your speed and following distance and try to stay in your lane. Many serious crashes are the result of drivers who swerve to avoid wildlife or other obstacles and then crash into another vehicle or lose control of their own vehicles.
. When driving any vehicle, always wear your safety belt because a collision could result in serious injuries.