BANDON — Three people were taken by ambulance to the hospital after a 50-foot section of the roadway collapsed and two cars went into an approximately 10-foot sinkhole it created on State Highway 42S Wednesday night, April 10. Officials closed the highway following the crashes.
(UPDATE: One lane of the highway was opened on Monday night with repairs to continue throughout the week. See related story on page A5.)
According to Capt. Gabriel Fabrizio with the Coos County Sheriff's Office, a call came at 9:53 p.m. Wednesday about three cars involved in accidents due to the damage on the highway. Two vehicles - one a passenger car with two occupants and one an SUV with a single occupant, went into the sinkhole, while a third vehicle with a single occupant went into a nearby ditch to avoid the hole.
A woman in one of the vehicles, identified by her son, Jack Ford, as Susan Ford who lives off Fat Elk Road off Highway 42S, was taken by Bay Cities Ambulance to Bay Area Hospital and treated for a broken sternum and several fractured ribs. She is doing all right, but is still in the hospital and in a lot of pain, her son reported.
Jack Ford said his mother was driving the first vehicle that came upon the sinkhole and her vehicle somehow made it around or over the sinkhole and landed in a ditch on the side of the highway. Her driver's side airbags deployed, she turned on her hazard lights but then saw the other vehicles go into the hole. She did not have any passengers in her car, he said.
Captain Timothy Fox with the Oregon State Police said Ford's vehicle hit part of the highway that had given way, causing the vehicle to overturn and roll over before coming to a rest in a ditch facing westbound on the eastbound shoulder of the highway.
"I'm thankful her car did not end up in the bottom of this hole with the other vehicles on top of hers," Jack Ford said. "She somehow made it over it and her car was facing west. She was on her way home heading east toward Coquille."
Fox said the other two vehicles landed in the sinkhole, one on top of the other. Tim Hunter of Port Orford posted on social media that his son Tommy of Coquille was driving an SUV that landed in the sinkhole. He said another car landed on his after he quickly exited the vehicle and scrambled onto the roadway.
"He's a little banged up, but otherwise OK," Tim Hunter posted.
Tommy Hunter declined medical treatment, Fabrizio said.
All the vehicles were traveling eastbound, Fabrizio said. He did not have the names of the others involved in the accident.
The washout occurred at milepost 5.4 near a culvert that was blocked, resulting in water pooling on the uphill side of the road. Heavy rains have washed a large amount of debris through creeks and culverts in recent weeks.
Bandon Fire Chief Lanny Boston said Fire Department personnel responded to the scene Wednesday night, along with the Coos County Sheriff's Office, Oregon State Police and Bay Cities Ambulance. The Oregon Department of Transportation also responded and closed the highway. Mast Bros. out of Reedsport towed the vehicles out of the sinkhole.
Boston said the sinkhole created by the washout is significant.
"There is absolutely no pavement on the east side of the highway and the west side has pavement, but no dirt under it. I didn't even want to walk on it," Boston said.
There is no official word yet on the names of those involved in the accident or their condition, but Boston said he was told there were no serious injuries.
One lane of Highway 42S is now open as crews work to fix the roadway. ODOT advises motorists traveling between Bandon and Coquille to use U.S. Highway 101 and Oregon 42 or expect delays on Highway 42S.
For more information about the condition of the highway, contact Dan Latham with ODOT at 541-957-3601 or Dan.Latham@odot.state.or.us.