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Truckers to the rescue

Drunk driver evades deputy near Estacada before being trapped by logging trucks
by: Clackamas County Sheriff This photo was taken from the dashboard of the second deputy, who arrived minutes before the suspect's car was run off the road.

Three log-truck drivers have been recommended for a citizen commendation because of their efforts to help Clackamas County sheriff's deputies apprehend a dangerous driver.

The three truck drivers used their rigs to box in a suspected drunk driver, who had been leading a Clackamas County sheriff's deputy on a dangerous pursuit on the afternoon of Dec. 8.

'I love that the citizens of Clackamas County will not stand for this type of behavior,' said Sgt. James Rhodes, spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. 'Some years we don't have any (commendations). Typically there is just a small handful of maybe two or three a year.'

As part of the commendation, all three drivers will be honored during a luncheon and ceremony. The date for the event has not yet been set.

A recipe for disaster

According to reports from the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, these are the ingredients of the scene that developed on that day in early December:

• A thrown champagne bottle;

• A suicide threat;

• A drawn gun;

• Countless incidents of dangerous driving; and,

• Three log-truck drivers who came to the rescue.

It all began when …

At 12:26 p.m. Dec. 8, 2011, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office received a report of a drunk driver - operating a Dodge Durango - on Springwater Road near Milo McIver State Park.

As a deputy was sent in pursuit, the car continued onto Highway 211 before turning onto Highway 224 and heading away from Estacada into the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Just as the car turned onto Highway 224, Deputy Dennis Kishpaugh spotted the Durango and attempted to pull it over just past Fall Creek, but the car sped off at speeds in excess of 70 mph.

The car, driven by Jennifer Blanchard, 25, also was carrying passenger Thomas Allen, 29, both of Northeast Portland.

Kishpaugh followed the car for about 14 miles before Blanchard stopped the car in the middle of the road and began taunting the deputy, trying to coax him out of his car.

Kishpaugh stayed in his car and asked Blanchard to turn her car off, to no avail. Instead, Allen threw a champagne bottle and Kishpaugh, and Blanchard once again sped off, according to police.

Moments later the car stopped in the middle of the road again, and the suspects refused to obey Kishpaugh, prompting the officer to draw his weapon.

Blanchard responded by shouting obscenities at him while asking him to shoot her, saying she had nothing to live for and that she was going to drive off a cliff.

Allen also got out of the car at this point and stood on the running boards, then proceeded to urinate on the street while screaming at the officer.

Meanwhile, three logging trucks that were heading out of Estacada on Highway 224 had caught up to what was happening. The trucks were driven by Tony Rickman, 39, of Eagle Creek; Earl Dodge, 58, of Maupin, and Tim Hartman, 55, of Molalla.

Hartman's truck was in front of the group, followed by Rickman and Dodge. Hartman and Rickman were on a job from the same company at the time and were able to communicate to each other over the radio.

After getting back into the car, Blanchard sped off for a third time before pulling off into a turnout. Once again, Kishpaugh ordered Blanchard to turn the car off, but she still refused to cooperate.

Now fed up with the delays that this ordeal was causing in their trip, Rickman and Hartman tried to box the car in.

'It wasn't a mistake,' Rickman said. 'The people were driving slow, all over the road and into different lanes. We had a lot of trucks coming down the highway off the mountain that day and our instinct was, we got these big trucks, and if we can stop this car while it's parked against a guard rail, then we thought we might be saving someone's life, especially one of our trucker buddies.'

Unfortunately for the truckers, Blanchard realized what was going on and narrowly escaped.

Now nearly 18 miles out of town, Blanchard pulled into another turnout full of potholes while Kishpaugh remained on the road for fear of getting stuck. This time, Blanchard turned around and began heading west on Highway 224 as she sped directly toward Kishpaugh.

As Kishpaugh swerved to avoid a head-on collision, his car left the road and became stuck on a group of boulders.

As Blanchard then headed back toward the truckers, Hartman had pulled off toward the side of the road while Rickman was parked between lanes.

'They were around a bend, and when I came around the corner, I just saw the dust and stuff where the car had just sped through,' Rickman said. 'I saw that Dennis was to the left, stuck, and so I said, we're just going to anchor our brakes.

'I can't say we made an effort, but when I came to a stop, I was in my lane but turned toward the left,' he said. 'I saw them coming and they came around the driver's side of the truck in front of me and it looked like they were going to go in front of me, so I tried to get out of their way and I jammed it into reverse. I don't know why, but at the last moment, the car tried to go behind me, and it happened so fast that it was over in a split second.'

What had happened was that Blanchard's Durango had made contact with the back of Rickman's tire, damaging her car and sending it into a ditch 4 or 5 feet off the road.

'My mind was just like, 'Oh my God,' ' Rickman said.

As all of this was taking place, Kishpaugh had gotten out of his car and was sprinting back toward the crash, which was approximately 300 yards away.

Following the crash, Allen got out of the car and began walking toward Kishpaugh while flipping him off as he put his fists up like he wanted to fight.

After taking one swing at the deputy, Allen was eventually subdued by Kishpaugh and Deputy Matt Helmer, who had arrived for backup moments before the crash.

To subdue Allen, a deputy struck him and shot him with a Taser before he was put in custody with the help of the third trucker, Dodge.

Are we in trouble?

Rickman, one of the truck drivers, was worried that he was going to get an earful from enforcement.

'I thought we were going to be in trouble, which is what I told the cop at first,' he said. 'I was worried that maybe we weren't doing the right thing and then the collision topped it all off, because I was thinking I had interfered. For some reason I still feel guilty.

'I wasn't trying to be a hero, I was just thinking, 'This cop is way up here by himself and what if something does happen.' '

What makes this story even more compelling is 'the cop' turned out to be one of Rickman's classmates from Estacada High School.

'I didn't recognize him until the point when he pulled his gun out,' Rickman said. 'His younger brother was in my class, so I knew him pretty well back then.'

A little time to think it over

Blanchard was accused of attempting to elude, reckless driving, driving while intoxicated and criminal mischief. She pleaded guilty to attempting to elude after accepting a plea bargain to have all other charges dismissed. She was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 18 months of supervision.

Allen was accused of first-degree disorderly conduct and fourth-degree attempted assault. His case is still pending.