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Wrong-way driver dies in Sunset Highway crash

Fiery collision blocks eastbound lanes for hours

A 36-year-old Southwest Portland man whose small pickup truck was going the wrong way on the Sunset Highway was killed early Saturday morning in a fiery crash that blocked the highway for several hours.

Beaverton police said Joe Thomas Perez Jr. was killed at the scene when his black 1993 Nissan pickup collided head-on at about 2:38 a.m. with a semi-tractor truck hauling two trailers in the highway's eastbound lanes.

The semi-truck was driven by Dale R. Long of Longview, Wash., for Market Transport LTD.

Police said the collision occurred between Southwest Murray and Cedar Hills boulevards. Witnesses said the Nissan pickup was driving east on the Sunset Highway when it approached the Cedar Hills area and turned around, heading west in the eastbound lanes.

The pickup struck the big truck. The driver of the pickup was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. The driver of the semi-tractor truck escaped injury.

The impact punctured a diesel fuel tank on the big truck, causing the vehicle to burst into flames.

All eastbound lanes of the Sunset Highway were closed to traffic for more than five hours while Oregon's Department of Transportation removed the damaged vehicles and soaked up the spilled diesel with sand.

The identity of the driver of the Nissan pickup will be released once his family has been told of the accident.

Beaverton police traffic investigators are looking into the circumstances of the crash.