Three Commercial Trucks Crash in Fog and Ice

Date: January 10, 2010
Location: I-84 near Pendleton, Oregon
Names: Susan Arhart, Michael Archebelle; Mark Marinelli; Manuel Herrera

On January 10, 2010, a series of single-vehicle crashes involving commercial trucks closed westbound lanes of I-84 east of Pendleton, Oregon, for several hours. One of the crashes injured two people. In a press release, OSP blamed poor visibility due to icy road conditions and a thick blanket of fog.

In the first crash, Susan Arhart was driving a truck and semi-trailer for Covenant Trucking Company. Arhart was downshifting for safety in poor weather conditions, but the truck went out of control and hit the guardrail. The truck and trailer crashed through the guardrail and slipped down a steep embankment about 300 feet. The trailer broke open, spilling its load.

Arhart and a passenger, Michael Archebelle, were injured and trapped inside the truck. Umatilla Rural Fire District personnel extricated the pair and found Arhart with minor injuries, and Archebelle with serious injuries.

Arhart was taken to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Pendleton. Archebelle was transported by Life Flight to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital.

Shortly after the first crash, a second truck driven by Mark Marinelli was also downshifting due to poor weather, and lost control of the truck. The truck flipped over, trapping Marinelli inside. Rescue crews were able to remove the truck’s windshield and remove Marinelli, who was not injured.

A third crash occurred when Manuel Herrera lost control of the Federal Express truck he was driving. The truck rolled over and its two trailers separated. The rear trailer came to rest at the side of the road. The truck and first trailer jackknifed and rammed through the first two crash scenes. Herrera and his passenger were not injured.

OSP did not have age or residence information for any of the individuals involved and are still investigating.

All three crashes caused minor hazardous material spills. Hermiston Hazmat Team handled cleanup operations.

We hope Arhart and Archebelle recover quickly, and we are glad no one else was injured. These truck crashes remind us how dangerous ice and fog can be, even for seasoned commercial drivers.

It is extremely important to be aware of the risks of ice on the road as you drive this winter. The Oregon Department of Transportation, in “Winter Driving Can Be Tricky,” warns that better cars, better roads, and better tires don’t take the place of better driving.

Tips for Winter Driving:

•    In snow or fog, drive with your low beams on. And keep headlights clean – dirty headlights can cut visibility in half.
•    Keep a good grip on the steering wheel. Do not make sudden turns; if you skid, correct your car using a light touch.
•    Increase following distance, then increase it some more. ODOT recommends at least three times the normal following distance in snow or ice.
•    Plan ahead for intersections.
•    If you find yourself skidding, ease your foot off the accelerator. If you have a manual transmission, push in the clutch. While keeping your foot off the brake, steer the same direction your car’s rear end is skidding.
•    If you hit a patch of ice, ease up on the accelerator and let your car “roll” through.
•    Remember that posted speed limits are meant for dry conditions, not rain, snow, sleet, or ice. Slow down during winter weather.