Warm Springs Grieves For Four Crash Victims
Updated On: Oct 01 2010 07:50:53 AM CDT
A car seen leaving the scene of a Madras burglary fled at high speed after a deputy pulled it over on Highway 26 near Warm Springs Wednesday night -- and moments later, the car crashed into an oncoming Warm Springs police car, killing three adults and a child and seriously injuring the officer and another child, authorities said.
Late Thursday afternoon, Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Adkins identified the dead as April Scott-Kalama, 26, Valerie Suppah, 25, Sean Starr, 22, and a 4-year-old girl Grace Sybil Scott, all of Warm Springs.
A 1 1/2 year-old boy, Ladamire Lydell Kalama survived the crash, Adkins said, and was in critical but stable condition at Portland's Doernbecher Children's Hospital, he said.
A Jefferson County sheriff?s deputy stopped the car near milepost 107 around 10:15 p.m., Adkins said.
The car had been seen earlier by witnesses fleeing the scene of a Madras burglary where gunshots were reported, Adkins said.
The burglary took place at Soundz Unlimited on Highway 97. Store owner Jim Willhite said shots were fired into his business just after 10 p.m.
"The bullet came through approximately, right here and it shattered the glass both inside and out," Willhite said, showing te bullet hole in the window.
He said the bullet ricocheted off a poster on the wall, and then flew across the room.
"It hit the bottom of this box," Willhite said. "And a little tiny spot on the wall."
The suspects made off with less than $500 worth of stereo equipment, according to Willhite.
His security company alerted police of the break-in, and soon after, a witness's description of the car suspects fled in led police to them, and a fateful encounter.
?When the deputy walked up to the suspect vehicle during the traffic stop, the driver sped away from the deputy at a high rate of speed,? Adkins said in a news release Thursday morning.
?The deputy returned to his patrol vehicle and pursued after the suspect vehicle, which was now out of sight,? the sheriff wrote.
About a mile and a half to the east -- just east of the Deschutes River and Warm Springs Indian Reservation boundary -- ?the deputy came upon the suspect vehicle, which had crashed with a Warm Springs Police car traveling the opposite direction,? the sheriff said.
"I mean, you're talking seconds," Jefferson County Sheriff's Sgt. Bryan Skidgel said Thursday. "The whole crash was really in seconds."
Adkins said a preliminary investigation revealed the pursued vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed when the driver lost control and the car slid sideways into the oncoming lane, colliding with the police car.
The Warm Springs Police officer sustained several broken bones, and was in stable condition at the Madras hospital, Adkins said.
Oregon State Police are investigating the crash, with the assistance of Jefferson County sheriff's deputies and Warm Springs police.
"My heart goes out to the family of all the deceased, and the victims, as well as the officers that are involved," Skidgel said. "It's a traumatic deal for everybody, and it's nothing anybody wants."
The crash and investigation closed the highway around milepost 105 until around 3 a.m.
?When we arrived on scene, we knew there was a major crash involved, and we had to close the highway,? said ODOT spokesman peter Murphy, referring to it as ?a major crash, the likes of which we have not seen in quite some time.?
Skidgel said the the Warm Springs officer was responding to the traffic stop to provide cover for the sheriff's deputy.
"This is as bad as anything I can remember,'' Skidgel said.
ODOT accident records show it was the worst single fatal crash on a 20-mile stretch of Highway 26 in more than 20 years.
Members of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation were just starting to take in the unthinkable tragedy.
The four people who died at the scene all lived on the reservation. It's not clear if they're related, but tribal members say everyone there is like family.
Over the roar of the highway, bells, chanting and praying could be heard Thursday morning as several tribal members gathered on the side of the road to mourn the devastating loss.
"When I was singing, I heard the screams and the yells from right there, that's when you pray a little harder," said tribal elder Roma David.
"We were called on to pray for the spirits that are still here, because the families of these children who have left us are hurting, just like we are," added fellow elder Geraldine Jim.
Among the wreckage of the crash that claimed so many lives in a single moment, white roses lay among the shattered glass.
"There are so many people involved in this, it's going to be very hard," David said.
A photograph of the wrecked Warm Springs patrol car shows the front end completely smashed in. Miraculously, the officer survived, but was sent to the hospital with several broken bones, and is expected to undergo surgery.
"We were with him last night and this morning," said Jim Soules, public safety manager for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. "He was obviously upset about what had occurred and feeling helpless. Nobody wants that to happen, nothing like that to happen to anybody. No matter what they've done, nobody wants that kind of horrific end to them."
The name of the officer involved is not yet being released.
Tribal members say their community has endured too many tragedies over the years, and something has to change.
David said she wasn't sure if drugs or alcohol may have been involved, but she added that when it comes to young people on the reservation, that's often the case.
"It affects everybody, the whole reservation is feeling this shock," she added. "Needless deaths."
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