ALBANY,Oregon– According to the farmworkers union in Oregon, the victims of one of the state’s deadliest highway crashes were farmworkers.
These individuals were traveling in a van during the typical commuting hour for agricultural laborers, who often return home after working in the harvest.
Authorities have not yet released the names of the seven who died or the four who were injured when a semitruck ran off Interstate 5 on Thursday and slammed into the van as it was parked on the roadside near Albany, in an agricultural area of the Willamette Valley.
The Woodburn-based PCUN, a union representing farmworkers, confirmed that the 11 individuals in the vehicle involved in the crash were indeed farmworkers.
The union expressed its support for the families of the victims, with whom they have been in contact, and offered condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.
“At this time, families are asking for safer roads for workers commuting after a hard day’s work,” Reyna Lopez, the union’s executive director, was quoted as saying.
The driver of the truck, Lincoln Clayton Smith, 52, of North Highlands, California, was arrested Friday on suspicion of manslaughter, driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and assault, police said. He was being held without bail in Marion County Jail.
It wasn’t clear whether Smith’s case had been assigned to the state public defender’s office or a specific attorney.
The office didn’t immediately respond to a message asking about that, and a lawyer whose name appears in court documents said she had not formally been assigned the case and could not comment.
At Smith’s arraignment, a district attorney said he had refused a field sobriety test and was unable to focus and answer basic questions, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.
The prosecutor also said Smith acknowledged taking “speed” the day before the crash and was in possession of methamphetamine, according to the paper.
The DA said witnesses reported the truck had been weaving on and off the road as it traveled in the northbound lanes Thursday afternoon before it plowed into the van without braking first, according to the Statesman Journal.
The van was then pushed into the back of another truck parked in front of it, Oregon State Police said.