Tue, May 30, 2023 6:38 PM
By CLAIRE RUSH, Associated Press/Report for America
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The driver of the semitruck involved in a fatal crash on Interstate 5 in Oregon earlier this month that left seven farmworkers dead has been indicted on charges of manslaughter, court documents show.
A grand jury in Marion County Court on Tuesday indicted Lincoln Smith, a 52-year-old truck driver from California, on 12 counts, including seven charges of manslaughter, reckless driving and driving under the influence of intoxicants.
His court-appointed defense attorney, Tiffany Humphrey, said she couldn't comment on the open case. The Marion County District Attorney's office, which filed the charges against Smith, said it won't comment on the case until it has concluded.
Smith was being held without bail in Marion County Jail, the sheriff’s office website showed.
On May 18, seven people died and four more were injured when Smith’s semitruck ran off I-5 and slammed into their van as it was parked on the roadside near Albany, in an agricultural area of the Willamette Valley in western Oregon. The van was carrying 11 agricultural laborers who were heading home after working in the harvest, the state's farmworkers union said.
The Woodburn, Oregon-based union, PCUN, organized an online fundraiser that has raised over $70,000 to help support the families of the victims.
Smith was allegedly driving while under the influence of a combination of a controlled substance and an inhalant, according to the indictment.
At his arraignment on May 19, 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.
Witnesses said the truck was weaving on and off the road before the collision, the paper reported.
The people who died were identified by Oregon State Police as: Eduardo Lopez, 31; Alejandro Jimenez Hernandez, 36; Josue Garcia Garcia, 30; Luis Enrique Gomez Reyes, 30; Javier Suarez, 58; Alejandra Espinoza Carpio, 39; and Juan Carlos Leyva Carrillo, 37.
Those with serious injuries have been identified as Maria Flores Martinez, 60; Hector Galindo, 45; and Jose Eduardo Solis Flores, 41. Adan Garcia Garcia, 40, suffered an injury police described as minor. Martinez, Galindo and Solis Flores were still at medical facilities receiving treatment as of last Monday, authorities said. State police on Tuesday didn't have an update on their conditions.
The Mexican Consulate in Portland said all of those killed and injured were farmworkers of Mexican nationality. All but one were listed by police as living in Oregon cities near the crash.
The consulate also said it was assisting the families of the victims and guiding them through the process of transferring remains to Mexico. It added that it is still in close communication with law enforcement.
The crash is one of the deadliest in Oregon in recent years.
A head-on collision on a remote road in Harney County in eastern Oregon in August 2018 killed a family of seven, including five young children. Eight people died in total.
In December 2012, nine people died after a tour bus careened on an icy Interstate 84 and crashed through a guardrail, plunging several hundred feet down a steep embankment. The bus was carrying about 40 people when the accident occurred in an area near Pendleton called Deadman Pass.
Another crash in 1988, also near Albany on I-5, killed 7 people and injured 37 more. Two infants were among those killed in the fiery 23-vehicle pileup.
Albany lies between Salem and Eugene and is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Portland. I-5 is the main north-south interstate highway on the West Coast.
Claire Rush is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.