A 39-year-old man remains hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday evening following an early morning crash that injured 10 wildland firefighters.
Marcelino Cuesta Romero was at St. Charles Bend, the only firefighter involved the crash still hospitalized as of late Tuesday.
A group of 20 firefighters from Lava River Forestry of Independence were traveling from Independence to the Briley Mountain Fire near John Day in a three- van caravan. Around 2:15 a.m., the driver of the middle van, Jeremy A. Miesner, 35, of Salem, fell asleep just west of Prineville on state Highway 126. Miesner’s van drifted into the westbound lane, and was struck on the left front side by a commercial truck driven by Scott Ramage, 48, of Washington.
All 10 firefighters in the van were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Ramage and his passenger were not injured.
Meisner was cited by Oregon State Police for failure to drive within a lane.
The firefighters are with a contract crew hired by the Oregon Department of Forestry, and had not been working in recent days, said ODF spokesman Rod Nichols. Nichols said firefighters often travel late at night, as managers on a fire will typically make their requests for additional resources at the end of the day.
Nichols said the crash could have been much worse. The collision caused extensive damage to the driver’s side of the firefighters’ van, but the two vehicles narrowly avoided a head-on crash.
“Obviously we’re concerned about the person who’s still hospitalized,” Nichols said. “But (we are) very relieved to hear that everyone else was released, considering the nature of the accident.”
Oregon State Police spokesman Lt. Gregg Hastings said Romero was riding on the driver’s side of the van.
In 2003, eight Oregon contract firefighters were killed in a head-on collision with a large commercial truck near Vale.
— Bulletin staff report