(Update: Revised tally of cats)
Three people and dozens of cats, dogs and a rabbit survived, but three cats perished Thursday afternoon when a pickup and travel trailer left U.S. Highway 26 near Ochoco Reservoir east of Prineville and plummeted down an embankment, according to Oregon State Police and responding animal rescue agencies.
The crash was reported around 3:15 p.m. Thursday on Highway 26 (Northeast Ochoco Highway) at Mack Drive, just west of the reservoir, troopers said.
Thomas Misik , 60, was driving the pickup towing a 29-foot trailer heading west near Milepost 25 when the trailer began to sway due to improper weight distribution, OSP said. That caused the trailer — with one person inside — to leave the road and travel down the embankment, pulling the truck with it, OSP said.
A 20-year-old Prineville man riding in the pickup and a 53-year-old Prineville woman who was in the trailer were taken by ambulance to St. Charles Prineville for treatment, where they were treated and released.
OSP Capt. Tim Fox confirmed that it’s illegal for someone to ride in a trailer that’s in motion on a highway, but he said no charges have been filed as the investigation is continuing.
The Humane Society of the Ochocos was called out to recover the animals and the Pet Evacuation Team sent six volunteers to assist. The PET said 44 cats were rescued (along with three deceased), as well as 10 dogs and a rabbit. An 11th dog, a border collie, apparently ran away and was still at large Friday, the organization said. Several animals were ill, but there were no apparent injuries from the crash, they added.
The Prineville shelter reached out on Facebook for people who can provide foster care for the animals, as well as blankets, pet food, cat food pans and warm beds.
The crash also tore open the trailer and left wreckage and items from inside strewn nearby. Active Towing was called to the scene Thursday and removal of the trailer was underway on Friday.
The Humane Society of Central Oregon in Bend took in six cats from the Prineville shelter to make room for the ones from the crash. They did so despite a likely record Bend shelter intake Friday of 42 animals, including the six from Prineville, said Lynne Ouchida, community outreach manager at HSCO.