Alcohol, speed cited as causes of early morning fatality

Police say one-ton pickup truck struck a large oak tree

A Vernonia man was killed early Sunday morning when the pickup truck he and two other men were traveling in struck a tree at a high speed, resulting in his ejection from the truck.

Killed in the crash was Joshua G. Watson, 34, of Vernonia.

Kasey L. Cooper, 22, of Yamhill, was also in the pickup truck. Cooper was taken via LifeFlight helicopter to Oregon Health Sciences University hospital in critical condition.

A third man, Ryan B. Rowlands, 32, of Newberg, was transported by ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Hospital with unknown injuries, according a police press release.

The press release indicated that alcohol was a likely factor in the crash.

Columbia County Sheriff's Office deputies responded to the crash at 5:42 a.m. Upon arriving at the scene on Keasey Road about one mile outside of Vernonia they discovered a white 2001 Dodge Ram pickup beside a large oak tree.

Police said the one-ton pickup struck the tree with enough force to send debris flying as far as 50 feet, including a piece of the tree estimated to weigh 50 pounds.

Two of the men, including Watson, had been ejected from the truck.

Though it is not known exactly when the crash occurred, a neighbor told police she heard something around 3:30 a.m. but did not investigate.

The crash remains under investigation. An Oregon State Police crash scene reconstruction specialist is providing assistance.