Four seriously injured in I-84 crash west of La Grande

OREGON STATE POLICE NEWS RELEASE -- Eleven people were injured, including four seriously, after a van pulling a trailer traveled off the eastbound shoulder of Interstate 84 about eighteen miles west of La Grande and rolled down a steep embankment Monday morning. Oregon State Police (OSP) and several local emergency responding agencies responded to the scene and have cleared. OSP is continuing the investigation and driver fatigue may have been a contributing factor in the crash involving members of a Hispanic musical group called "La Estrella" from Dallas, Texas.

According to Lieutenant Mike Turner, on May 12, 2014 at approximately 7:40 a.m., OSP Southern Command Center dispatch was notified that a van pulling a trailer crashed off the eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 near milepost 241. Initial information advised one person was deceased and trapped underneath the vehicle. OSP Senior Trooper Marcus McDowell and 7 van occupants who were not seriously injured worked together to lift the van off the trapped person and found he was alive. The van came to rest over 50 feet down from the freeway lanes.

OSP, Union County Sheriff's Office, fire and medical personnel and ODOT responded to the scene. Four people were transported from the scene to hospitals. Seven other people were not taken from the scene to a hospital but were later taken by Mid-Columbia Bus Company out of Pendleton to Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande for medical evaluations of minor injuries.

Preliminary investigation indicates a 2006 Ford E350 van pulling a utility trailer containing personal property, musical instruments and equipment driven by GILBERTO C. HERNANDEZ, age 34, from Dallas, Texas, was traveling from Washington State back to Dallas, Texas. As the van occupied by a total of 11 adult males was eastbound on Interstate 84 near milepost 241, it gradually travelled off the pavement to the right onto a wide gravel area. The van brushed the end of a metal guardrail, continuing to the right side of the railing and down a steep embankment where it came to rest at the bottom after rolling an unknown amount of times.

It appears to investigators that two people were ejected, one of which was pinned under the van from his shoulders down. After the trooper and occupants raised the van off the man, identified as PABLO OSORIO, age not available, from Dallas, Texas, he was transported by LifeFlight to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, Washington. Three other occupants, including OLIVERIO BENITEZ SANCHEZ, age 29, from Dallas, Texas, who was also ejected, were transported by ground ambulance to Grande Ronde Hospital for treatment of serious injuries.

OSP troopers from Pendleton and La Grande offices are involved with the investigation. Senior Trooper McDowell is the lead investigator. No citations have been issued at this time.

Assistance at the scene was provided by ODOT and several public safety agencies out of Union and Umatilla counties.