New Year's Day was shattered early Sunday morning on Highway 99E when two vehicles collided head-on near Salem. Oregon State Police report that as many as 10 people were injured and two people died in the two-vehicle crash. State police say the driver of a Pontiac Bonneville crossed over the center line on Highway 99E at roughly 3:00 a.m. Sunday and the Pontiac slammed head-on into a Dodge Caravan with 11 people aboard.
A 3-year-old girl was reportedly riding in her father's lap in the van. She was tragically ejected from the van during the head-on car accident and died at the scene. Ten other people riding in the van sustained personal injuries in the wreck. A 31-year-old man from Salem was driving the Pontiac involved in the collision. The OSP says he also died at the scene.
Three people who were riding in the van were flown from the crash site via LifeFlight helicopters to hospitals in Portland. All three were listed in critical condition when they were admitted to the hospitals. Other occupants from the van were taken by ambulance to hospitals in Salem, Silverton and to Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
Preliminary reports indicate that law enforcement believes most of the people involved in the collision were wearing seat belts when the crash occurred. Police say they have no reason at this time to believe that alcohol played a role in the crash. However, authorities say they ordered toxicology tests for the deceased driver of the Pontiac. Results of those tests could take weeks.
Authorities shut down Highway 99E for five hours after the collision. No citations have been issued in relation to the accident.
Source: Statesman Journal, "Highway 99E crash leaves two dead, 10 injured," Stefanie Knowlton, Jan. 2, 2012