WEST BENTON COUNTY, Ore. -- A head-on crash west of Corvallis that killed one woman and sent four other people to the hospital Wednesday afternoon might have been caused by a driver falling asleep at the wheel, police said.
A report from the Sheriff's Office said that a Toyota 4-runner driven by 16-year-old Austin Tyler Wells of Monmouth was driving westbound on Highway 20. His mother, 52-year-old Katherine Elane Wells in the front-passenger seat. Four-year-old Toby Hibbs and two-year-old Kaylee Hibbs from Toledo were in the rear passenger seats.
A Lincoln Towncar driven by 53-year-old Glenn Allen Utterback of Jefferson, Oregon was headed eastbound on Highway 20.
The Toyota 4-runner drifted into oncoming traffic just west of the Blodgett Road intersection. Police said that Austin Wells appeared to have fallen asleep.
Wells awoke and jerked the wheel away from the oncoming lane of travel. Utterback, trying to avoid the car that had drifted into his lane of traffic steered into the opposite lane of traffic at the same time Wells corrected his steering.
The vehicles hit head-on in the westbound lane at just after 4 p.m. Both cars ended up facing north about 10 feet from each other. Katherine Wells was pronounced dead at the scene, the two drivers and passengers were taken to the Good Samaritan Hospital for injuries and to be evaluated.
When KVAL reporters talked with aquaintances of Katherine Wells, they said she was an active member of her community. Tina Nunn, who works at a store near where the crash happened said that Wells was wonderful woman who was heavily involved in her community.
Traffic on Highway 20 was diverted for over two hours, it was reopened at around 7:20 p.m.
An initial investigation determined that drugs and alcohol are not to blame for the crash. The investigation is ongoing, any witnesses are asked to call Benton County Sheriff's Office at 541-776-6858.