COUPLE SURVIVES 58-FOOT DROP

February 05, 2002 12:00 am
FREEING ACCIDENT VICTIMS: Craig Gomes of the City of La Grande Fire Department uses an extrication tool to free two injured occupants trapped in a pickup truck that plunged off the I-84 bridge over the Grande Ronde River Monday afternoon just west of Upper Perry. At right is Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
FREEING ACCIDENT VICTIMS: Craig Gomes of the City of La Grande Fire Department uses an extrication tool to free two injured occupants trapped in a pickup truck that plunged off the I-84 bridge over the Grande Ronde River Monday afternoon just west of Upper Perry. At right is Union County Sheriff Steve Oliver. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

A man was seriously injured and his wife also was hospitalized Monday afternoon when the pickup truck they were riding in west of La Grande left the bridge and landed 58 feet below near the Grande Ronde River.

Howard Scarlett, who will be 67 Thursday, was flown to a Portland hospital after first being taken to Grande Ronde Hospital, Oregon State Police said. The OSP did not know the name of the Portland hospital.

His wife, Ruth Scarlett, whose age was not available, was listed in fair condition this morning at Grande Ronde Hospital.

The couple is from Zillah, Wash., state police said.

State police had not had an opportunity to interview the driver before he was taken to the hospital and had not determined the rate of speed the westbound vehicle was traveling on Interstate 84 when it struck the Upper Perry Bridge abutment.

Police said the driver lost control on the icy roadway, struck the bridge and went over the side, landing 58 feet below the bridge. If the pickup had dropped straight down from the bridge, it would have landed in the river.

Both occupants had to be extricated from the wrecked pickup, which ended up on its side.

Besides Oregon State Police and Union County Sheriffs officers, both the La Grande Fire Department and the La Grande Rural Fire Protection District responded with crews and equipment.

They were on the scene from 2:25 to 4 p.m.