2 dead, 1 hurt in head-on crash along Hwy 97

MADRAS, Ore. -- Two men died and a woman was taken to the hospital Friday afternoon when two cars hit head-on while one was trying to pass a commercial truck on Highway 97.

At around 5:30 p.m. Friday a line of cars behind a commercial truck started to pass on the left by driving in the oncoming lane of the two-lane highway.

One of the drivers, later identified as Warren Ward, 91 of Chula Vista, Ca. tried to pass the truck about seven miles north of Madras.

Ward didn't have enough room to make it past the truck and hit a Ford Explorer head-on, state police said.

Both Ward and the Explorer's driver, Harold Curtis, 71 of Antelope, Oregon were pronounced dead at the scene.

Curtis' girlfriend, 68-year-old Elizabeth Samul, was taken to St. Charles Medical Center in Madras for treatment.

Oregon State Police initially said Curtis was driving with a suspended license. That was in error; Curtis has a current driver's license, police said Monday.

Officials said one of the cars caught fire after the crash. Crews closed down the highway for two hours before clearing the roadway to one lane.