ELSIE, Ore. – Investigators said a driver had been drinking before he lost control of his truck on an icy stretch of Highway 26 and crashed into a pickup truck Tuesday morning.
State police said icy road conditions also caused the pileup near the Quartz Creek Bridge east of Elsie around 9 a.m. Nine vehicles were involved in the crash.
Investigators said McKenzie Fidler, 29, of Gresham, was driving westbound on the highway when he lost control of his Toyota pickup on the icy road. Fidler’s truck crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming GMC pickup truck, which caught fire.
John Olson, 75, and Jerrie Olson, 70, were in that truck, but saved by off-duty firefighter Nick Weichal.
Weichal said his car had also crashed on the bridge.
“I tried to get out of my car. Couldn’t open the door because it’s up against a really tall curb, and so I rolled down the window and climbed out through the window,” Weichal said. “And I just started checking to see if people were OK.”
He found the Olsons trapped in their car, and said he had to pry off a stuck door with his bare hands.
“As I’m doing that, a fire starts in the engine compartment of the pickup that these two people are stuck in so that made me a lot more motivated to get them out faster,” Weichal said.
Weichal said he first got Jerrie Olson out, but John Olson’s legs were pinned against the dashboard.
He said flames began pouring into the cab through the windshield.
“To avoid the fire I had (John) lay down so I could get underneath his arms and pull on his armpits and just get any purchase point that I could,” Weichal said. “But it hurt him a lot and I knew it.”
Weichal was able to get John Olson out with help from others at the scene. Both Olsons are in the hospital in fair condition.
Weichal was not hurt.
Fidler’s pickup was struck from behind by other vehicles and pushed into a commercial truck. He was seriously injured and taken to a Portland hospital.
Police said Fidler had been drinking before the crash. It’s unclear if he was wearing a seat belt.
None of the people in the other vehicles was seriously hurt.
The highway reopened at 1 p.m. after crews cleared the road and inspected the bridge for damage.