Marcola man crashes into police car near Rice Hill, dies

Marcola man crashes into police car near Rice Hill, dies »Play Video

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ore. -- A Marcola man and former Roseburg resident is dead after crashing into a Douglas County Sheriff's deputy's patrol car Wednesday night on Interstate 5 near Rice Hill.

Oregon State Police report that James Arthur Pelkey was driving a 1986 GMC pickup in the Roseburg area, when he was allegedly involved in a hit and run collision at around 7:30 p.m.

About 15 minutes after that, a Sutherlin Police Officer Troy Mills spotted the pickup heading north on I-5 near milepost 136 and tried to stop the vehicle, but Pelkey didn't stop.

An OSP Trooper, Ray Dube, was near Rice Hill and joined Officer Mills in the pursuit.

Just before 8:00 p.m., Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy Joe Thornton was stopped on the side of the freeway near milepost 151, preparing to deploy spike strips to stop the vehicle.

Sergeant Dave Randall of the Oregon State Police says speeds were between 20-80 miles per hour. "A Deputy Sheriff was set up on the shoulder of the roadway with his lights on. He had spike strips in his hand and he was going to deploy those spike strips, when Mr. Pelkey came around the corner and for whatever reason, he headed right for the Sheriff's Office vehicle."

As Deputy Thorton was getting ready with the spike strips, he saw the vehicle drive onto the shoulder, and managed to drop the spike strips and run out of the way as the pickup smashed into the back of his patrol car.

Pelkey was extricated from the vehicle and taken to Cottage Grove Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Randall says he doesn't think they could have done anything differently to avoid the crash. "I'm not sure what we could have done better on that. The pursuit wasn't pushed, the officers communicated well, they had set up, they had a good plan. If Mr. Pelkey had decided to keep going there, spike strips could have been deployed, we didn't have excessive speed, could have deflated the tires and it would have been a slow roller from there," said Randall.

Police say that Pelkey had a suspended license, and there were signs of alcohol and marijuana in the vehicle.

One lane of the highway was closed until around 11:30 p.m.

Oregon State Police and a crash reconstructionist are leading the investigation, with the help of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, Sutherlin Police Department and ODOT. The Rice Hill Rural Fire Department assisted at the scene.