Nasty truck crash closes major highway ramp through Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A semi-truck collided with another vehicle while traveling through central Portland on Wednesday morning, rolled over, then fell 49 feet off an on-ramp.

Police said the truck driver, 67-year-old David Lee Sitton of Arlington, Ore., is in a Portland hospital in serious condition. The crash, which happened around 3:30 a.m., also shut down the busy ramp from I-84 westbound to I-5 northbound during part of the morning commute.

The ramp was re-opened around 8 a.m.

Police said Sitton's truck was towing a 53-foot cargo trailer in the left left when it collided with a Nissan Versa driven by 22-year-old Jordan-Ashlee Sylvester of Portland. Sylvester's car hit the right front tire of the truck, causing her to careen into the concrete barrier.

Sitton's truck swerved left, jumped the four-foot tall railing at the side of the road and plummeted 49 feet, bouncing off the the Union Pacific Railroad office building in the process.

Micah Martin was at ground-level a couple hundred feet away and witnessed the accident.

"I thought I heard something like a gunshot," he said. "I looked over and seen dust and smoke and you can see the trailer sticking up in the air, but I really couldn't make out what it was.

"I looked at it and there's wheels on top and it's just - wow, a semi went off."

Sitton (right) was pinned in the truck after it landed. Firefighters trained in heavy extraction were called to the scene and managed to get him out.

Complicating the rescue was the potential of a fire from the more than 50 gallons of diesel that leaked from the truck's damaged fuel tank. Paramedics stabilized Sitton while he was still in the cab, providing treatment to the most traumatic injuries while additional crews worked to deal with the fuel spill and stabilize the truck for extraction. The extraction took 32 minutes.

"A semi off of an overpass striking a building with a patient that needs heavy extrication is not a regular thing," said Portland Fire spokesman Gabriel Watson. "But certainly those sorts of obscure incidents have the potential to happen anytime, as they did this morning."

The trailer separated from the truck and collided with a building about 50 feet away, with superficial damage to the building.

Sylvester was not injured, and police said she was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A passenger in her car was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Sylvester's mother told KATU that her daughter was trying to pass the semi-truck before the merge with Interstate 5 and was surprised with the truck accelerated up the ramp.

No citations have yet been issued and the case remains under investigation.

Crews will close the I-84 to I-5 ramp ramp Wednesday night from 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. Thursday to make concrete repairs and replace 150 feet of railing that topped the concrete barrier.

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