Suspected driver faces homicide charge

Luis Lopez Morales

Oregon State Police troopers last week arrested the suspected driver who fled a Dec. 19 fatal car wreck near Hermiston.

Luis Lopez Morales, 25, no known permanent address, faces charges of criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, six counts of recklessly endangering and six counts of felony hit and run, OSP said in a news release.

He is in the Umatilla County Jail in Pendleton in lieu of $116,000 bail.

In addition, the Umatilla County Jail website indicates the sheriff's office has placed an immigration hold on Lopez Morales.

The wreck, a head-on collision between a 1993 Chevrolet Blazer and 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe, happened Sunday shortly before 10:43 p.m. Emergency responders found Moises Arroyo Hernandez, 33, from Umatilla, dead in the Blazer, but Lopez Morales, the driver in that vehicle, fled the scene on foot, as did an injured passenger.

The initial investigation indicates the Blazer, with three occupants, was northbound on Highway 395 near the Columbia Motor Speedway at a high speed, OSP said. Lopez Morales lost control, the news release said, crossed into the southbound lanes and struck the Tahoe.

OSP identified the occupants of the Tahoe as driver Lidia Tejeda, 39; and passengers Jose Tejeda, 41, Alejandra Tejeda, 13, and Nayeh Tejeda, 3. The 13-year old passenger suffered serious injuries and the others had minor injuries. Responders transported them to Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston.

Troopers later found the Blazer's injured passenger, Nolberto Gonzalez Nernal, age not available, from Umatilla, at Good Shepherd Medical Center in Hermiston with non-life threatening injuries.

Monday evening, OSP, Umatilla County Sheriff's Office, Umatilla Police Department and Umatilla Fire Department responded to a Umatilla-area residence after receiving a tip that the driver of the Blazer was hiding out. Police arrested Lopez Morales without incident, OSP said.

He had suffered minor injuries, probably from the crash, OSP said, but he was not hospitalized.

OSP is continuing the investigation with the assistance of the Umatilla County District Attorney's Office.

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