Residents on Feedville and South Edwards roads are growing more anxious about the intersection where those roads meet, after a crash earlier this month sent two teenagers with serious injuries to the hospital.
The four-way intersection is in rural Umatilla County between Hermiston and Stanfield. South Edwards Road has a stop sign, but Feedville Road does not.
The intersection has been the site of several collisions over the past few years, including fatal ones in March 2014 and September 2016.
Heidi Carver, who lives in the area, said she has been trying to talk to county officials for years, but so far has had no success in getting a four-way stop put in at the intersection.
Carver’s husband, Dustin Scott, still remembers the events that led to his accident in September 2016. Scott, driving a Ford pickup west on Feedville Road, T-boned a Chevrolet Impala heading south on South Edwards. The driver of the Impala, a 55-year-old woman, died at the scene. The passenger, a 58-year-old man, was seriously injured.
Scott suffered a shattered tibia and several lacerations.
“I was driving into town, it was about 7:45, not quite dark,” he said. “I kind of saw the car coming from the right, and it looked like they had their tail lights on and were stopping.”
But the car, which was supposed to stop at South Edwards, didn’t. Blowing through the sign, they drove out in front of Scott’s car before he could brake.
“I remember thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Scott said. “Where we ended up is where all the little graves are.”
Angela Ditchen, who also lives near the intersection, said her husband, Darren, and her sons were involved in a crash in March 2014 where an elderly woman passenger died, and the driver of the car was taken to the hospital. Ditchen said her husband’s car flipped, he tore a muscle in his hand, and her youngest son had a seatbelt burn. But other than that, they had few injuries.
“They were lucky,” Ditchen said. “I don’t know how my boys are alive.”
Residents don’t understand why county officials haven’t added another stop sign at the intersection.
“We have five boys and (the Ditchens) have three kids getting close to driving age,” Carver said. “As people who live out there, we want to know — why hasn’t there been a traffic revision out there?”
Sheriff Terry Rowan said they had been looking at the intersection, and comparing it to others in the area.
“The intersection at Loop and South Edwards, that’s a four-way stop sign,” Rowan said. “And there have been no fatalities there.”
Rowan said that off the top of his head, he couldn’t think of an intersection in the county that had seen as many accidents as the Feedville and Edwards intersection.
According to Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office records, since 2012 there have been 11 crashes at that intersection. Two were fatal, two have resulted in major injuries, three yielded minor injuries and four were non-injury accidents. One resulted in a DUII arrest.
County commissioner Bill Elfering said he is aware of the problems at the intersection and that commissioners have discussed it before and will do so again at their board meeting Wednesday.
He said drivers don’t seem to heed the stop sign that’s already there — even after a larger one was installed recently — making him question if they would pay attention to another one.
“We’ll take testimony from the sheriff, from public works about what works and what doesn’t,” Elfering said.
There are several potential solutions to that stop — a four-way stop, a blinking light or a blinking stop sign, as some intersections in Hermiston have.
But he said the commission is concerned that a blinking light would become an object of target practice in a more rural area.
“One shot to those, they cost $1,500 apiece,” he said.