Contributed photo/Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office
A Memorial Day weekend crash killed two motorcyclists and seriously injured several other riders late Saturday night on Highway 19, in an area located just east of Fossil.
The crash happened when a vehicle traveling north Highway 19 crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic, striking a large number of motorcycle riders who were southbound, authorities said.
Killed in the crash were Aaron Michael Polsfuss and Donald Robert Pratt, who died at the scene.
The driver of the vehicle, Lisa Ann Niehaus, was arrested and booked in jail on multiple charges, including two counts of criminally negligent homicide, three counts of assault in the third degree and several misdemeanors.
Wheeler County Sheriff Chris Humphreys, who said he was on the scene from the start, called it “horrific.”
“It is definitely the worst in Wheeler County history,” he said.
Several agencies responded to the crash at 10:40 p.m. Saturday near milepost 60, including ambulances from Spray, Fossil, Condon and Arlington. Four helicopters and a fixed-wing plane transported patients from the scene and from Asher Community Health Clinic in Fossil.
Volunteer medical crews and fire departments responded, along with Wheeler County Sheriff’s office and Oregon State Police.
Highway 19 was closed for nearly nine hours as a local crane operator assisted in clearing the wreckage.
“I’ve seen some things in the 20 years that I’ve been doing this,” Humphreys said. “It’s heartbreaking on every side here. I’m in contact with the families, and it’s heartbreaking for them.”
He said first responders, mainly volunteers, took on a “gargantuan effort.”
The motorcycle group, which are self-identified as members of the Gypsy Jokers Motorcycle Club, were headed to the 40th Fossil Motorcycle Campout at Bear Hollow Park south of Fossil. Humphreys said they believe more than 40 motorcyclists were riding together. He added that getting a full count was difficult.
A Grant County School District No. 3 bus driver, who didn’t wish to be named, said he was traveling toward Grant County with students on board the night of the crash. On Sunday, after hearing reports, he realized he missed the crash by about two minutes. He said the thought of how close they came to having the vehicle hit them, or possibly being in the middle of the crash, was sobering.
In addition to the two charges of criminally negligent homicide, Class B felonies, Niehaus was charged with three counts of assault in the third degree, Class C felonies, for unlawfully and recklessly causing serious physical injury by vehicle to Lucas Andre Mattern, James Loren Deen and Justin Lee Mac.
She was also charged with assault in the fourth degree for unlawfully and recklessly causing injury to David Frank McReynolds, Brandon Dennis Doeden and Pamela Rashelj “Duddles” Singer.
Additional charges included one count of reckless driving, and three counts of recklessly endangering another person (McReynolds, Doeden and Singer) by driving into oncoming traffic.