PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A hit-and-run driver seriously injured 2 construction workers on I-5 near Wilsonville Tuesday morning, causing a traffic jam that stretched for miles. Eight days later, one of the injured men died.
The workers with Knife River Corporation were hit by a white box truck near milepost 280 around 3:15 a.m., the Oregon State Police said. The truck was found a short time later, and authorities told KOIN 6 News the driver is now behind bars.
Colin Michael Cook was found and arrested by Oregon State Police and is being held in the Marion County Jail. The 27-year-old Fairview resident faces charges of failing to perform the duties of a driver, 2nd-degree assault, reckless driving and reckless endangering.
Brian Gray, the president of the Northwest Region for Knife River Corporation, told KOIN 6 News his workers were taking down a road closure sign as they prepared for a 10-mile paving project.
“We had 2 lanes closed and we were getting ready to open that back up to traffic,” Gray said. “They were both in an F-250 pickup and they were inside the road closure with plenty of signage and warnings.”
But a vehicle went through the construction barrels and hit the back of the pickup, causing serious injuries to the 2 workers, and then fled the scene.
“My heart sunk,” Gray said. “I’ve had to do this before and this is something our industry is passionately working with ODOT and OSP and AAA and the trucking assocation and (the state of) Oregon trying to prevent injuries like this from happening.”
The Knife River workers, 20-year-old Antonio Manuel Bahena and 57-year-old Ronald Ernest Davis, were taken to Portland area hospitals for treatment of their injuries. Bahena was released, while Davis remained at Legacy Emmanuel.
On June 14, authorities said Davis died from his injuries.
Gray said Davis has 25 years experience with the company. “He’s a supervisor. He’s at the top of his game.”
He said all their workers “are family members” who “deserve to work safe and go home safe at night to their families.”
‘Imagine you’re in a cubicle and a truck goes by at 60 mph’
Don Hamilton with ODOT said drivers need to slow down in construction zones, especially during the busy summer season.
“Imagine that you’re sitting in your cubicle at your office and there’s a truck going by at 60 mph about 5 feet away,” Hamilton said. “That’s what it’s like for these workers in the work zones. It’s scary and it’s dangerous.”
Gray said there is a condensed construction season to get the work done around the state. He understands it’s frustrating for drivers to sit in traffic and going 20 mph through a construction zone might make someone late.
“But I’m begging for people to do that, to just take their time and respect the workers out there doing their jobs,” he said.
Lanes of I-5 were closed during the investigation but reopened around 8:15 a.m. Witnesses are urged to call 503-375-3555.
In an unrelated incident, the driver of a Jeep was arrested near the scene of the crash for speeding and driving recklessly on the shoulder.
Second recent crash with highway workers
This is the second crash involving construction workers in 2 weeks.
On May 24, Pablo Dominguez-Amezcua died after a driver plowed through a construction zone in Happy Valley. Two other workers were seriously hurt.
Fedsot Tsopko drove into the well-marked construction zone on SE 122nd Avenue that day, Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said. The 51-year-old man is facing charges of manslaughter and DUII, in addition to high-speed driving in a safety zone and school zone.
He needed the help of a Russian interpreter while he was in court the next day, but after hearing his charges read during his arraignment, he managed to ask “Did I kill him?” in English.
Tsopko is being held on $750,000 bail.