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Hwy. 22E closed indefinitely by fatal, fiery tanker crash


(Update: Family corrects man from Redmond; 11,600 gallons of unleaded gas spilled; DEQ overseeing cleanup; some reaches river; road closed ‘indefinitely’)

A Redmond man was killed in the fiery rollover crash of his fuel truck on icy Highway 22E near Idanha late Friday night, Oregon State Police said Saturday. The intense heat damaged the roadway and more than 11,000 gallons of unleaded gas spilled on the road, its shoulders and some into the North Santiam River, making for an extensive cleanup and indefinite closure of the route between Central Oregon and the Willamette Valley.

OSP responded around 11 p.m. Friday to the reported crash near milepost 64 involving a 2001 Kenworth Central Petro fuel truck, Sgt. Kaipo Raiser said.

A preliminary investigation found that the truck lost traction on the icy road and overturned, coming to a stop blocking the highway.

The driver of a Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District fire engine responding to the scene also lost control on the icy road and the truck rolled onto its side, Raiser said. There also were other collisions that resulted in no injuries.

The driver of the fuel truck, Ronald Edward Scurlock, 58, of Redmond, was pronounced dead at the crash scene, the sergeant said.

ODOT said in a later traffic advisory the highway in the Santiam Canyon will remain closed “indefinitely” due to the damage caused by the crash and spill of almost 11,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline. The road is closed between milepost 55 at the east end of Idanha to the Santiam Junction of highways 20 and 22. U.S. Highway 20 is an alternate route for travelers between Central Oregon and the Valley.

“ODOT is assessing the damage to the road and determining what repairs will be needed,” the late Saturday afternoon stated.

One of the vehicles that slid and struck a guardrail was a bus carrying the Redmond High School varsity basketball team, returning from a game at South Albany.

Assistant Coach Mark Crose told NewsChannel 21 the team had voted to go on with the road game, despite learning earlier Friday that a classmate had died.

“The bus slid across the road and hit the guardrail when we stopped for this wreck,” Crose said. “ODOT had to come and sand and assist us turning around.”

He said the team bus was stuck at the scene for three or four hours before turning back to Lyons, then took South Santiam Highway through Lebanon, arriving back in Redmond around 6:45 a.m. Saturday.

“It was a scary scene, seeing that fire,” Crose said. “And when the sheriff told us the driver didn’t survive, it was another blow for the kids still processing the death of a classmate.”

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality was on scene Saturday, coordinating the containment and cleanup.

DEQ spokeswoman Katherine Benenati confirmed that some of the 11,600 gallons of unleaded gas made its way into the North Santiam River, and efforts were underway to place booms and begin recovering fuel.

The crash occurred about 300 yards upstream from where Pamelia Creek enters the North Santiam River, Benenati said. There are areas saturated with gas on both sides of the road and it’s still seeping into the river, she added.

Some of the fuel could be smelled in Detroit, 10 miles west of the crash site, the DEQ spokeswoman said, adding that communities with water intake downriver have been notified of the spill.

Benenaati later said water supply systems downstream of the site shut of their intakes after the Oregon Health Authority notified them of the spill. They are currently using their reserves and not pulling water from the river, she said.

EPA is on scene and plans to take water samples to test for petroleum products. Benenati said they hope to have those samples analyzed within 24 hours, so the results should back sometime on Tuesday, accounting for the turnaround time.

The city of Salem uses the river for drinking water. It shut off its supply from the river late Saturday.

Check the latest road, weather and traffic updates at our ODOT TripCheck page.

Raiser said OSP was assisted at the scene by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Idanha Fire Department, Gates Fire Department, Salem Regional HazMat and ODOT.

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