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Central Oregon

La Pine man killed in head-on crash on Highway 97

Highway 97 fatal crash Rhea 1111-1
Rhea Panela/KTVZ
Two-vehicle crash Wednesday morning on Highway 97 near Sunriver killed 1 La Pine man, injured 2.

OSP says driver was going too fast for conditions; crash shut hwy. for 2 hours

SUNRIVER, Ore. (KTVZ) -- One La Pine man was killed and two others were injured Wednesday morning in a head-on crash on icy Highway 97 near Sunriver, Oregon State Police said.

OSP troopers and other emergency personnel responded around 7:45 a.m. to the two-vehicle crash near milepost 158 and Vandevert Road, about 10 miles north of La Pine, troopers said.

A preliminary investigation found that John Kerlin, 31, was driving northbound when he lost control of his car on the icy roadway and it slid into the southbound lane, colliding with a minivan driven by a 70-year-old La Pine man.

Kerlin sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased, troopers said.

The other driver and his passenger, a 44-year-old La Pine man, were taken to St. Charles Bend after the crash, which closed Highway 97 for about two hours.

OSP Trooper Caleb Ratliff said Kerlin apparently was driving too fast for the icy conditions.

"The roads are slick out there," he said at the scene. "And even though the speed might be 65 (mph) here, conditions dictate that you still need to travel at a speed that's reasonable, given the conditions, so they need to slow down slower than that."

OSP was assisted by the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Bend Police Department, fire medics and ODOT.

Accidents and Crashes / Deschutes County / News / Top Stories
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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.



  1. Driving this morning was treacherous. I lost control on purpose several times testing the surface. Most drivers do not understand when 45 should be the max speed limit in these conditions. RIP and be careful out there everyone.

  2. “Trooper Caleb Ratliff said Kerlin apparently was driving too fast for the icy conditions.”

    If this is true, I wonder when people will slow down, especially when the roads are icy…
    Yes, a center divider could potentially reduce the risk of a head on crash, but when there
    aren’t any, it’s up to the drivers to maintain control of their vehicle…

  3. I imagine that as more and more non-country and non-mountain people move into our beautiful and getting crowded area, we will see many more accidents and fatalities due to people not realizing that no matter how much you pay for a fancy 4×4 or all-terrain supposedly safe vehicle, it is the human behind the wheel that makes the difference.

  4. I’ve lived here 6 years, and seen at least 1 fatal crash off Vandervert every single year. The current state of that intersection is a death trap. I’m glad they are finally splitting northbound and southbound out, but unfortunately more lives will be claimed here until it’s fixed.

    Folks, if you live in an area where you can take Vandervert road on to 97 N/S, perhaps go to the onramp one exit up in Sunriver if the weather conditions are bad. It’s not even worth trying to get the timing right to get on at that intersection, just go up one.

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