PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — I-84 is fully reopened near Biggs Junction after the Oregon Department of Transportation removed two crashed big rigs from the Columbia River Monday morning. Both trucks left the roadway and splashed into the same stretch of the Columbia River at different hours between the night of Aug. 25 and early morning of Aug. 26.
ODOT spokesperson David House told KOIN 6 News that a mobile crane was brought in to perform the removal, which began at 7 a.m. Both semi-tractors and their four corresponding trailers were removed from the water by 1 p.m. and loaded onto flatbed trucks. Traffic remains sluggish in the area.
“It will take a while for backed-up westbound traffic to catch up [following the closure],” House said.
It remains unclear at this time how much diesel fuel spilled into the Columbia River as a result of the crashes. However, House said that both vehicles appear to be in good condition.
“If we’re lucky, there wasn’t any fuel leaked at all,” he said.
Oil boons were set up around the crashes to collect any potential oil spills during the removal. Divers were also on scene checking for leaks during the recovery. While one of the involved semis was a fuel truck, House said the truck had completed its delivery in Biggs Junction shortly before the crash.
The fuel truck had offloaded in Biggs,” House said. “It must have just been offloaded. The Other truck was an empty box truck that had some pallets in it.”
The cause of each crash remains under investigation by Oregon State Police. However, initial details provided by OSP show that the crashes were likely only related by proximity. The first crash, which involved a double box truck, occurred when the driver struck an abandoned Mercedes-Benz parked on the shoulder of the highway at 8:50 p.m., the OSP crash report shows. The second crash occurred roughly 25 minutes past midnight on Aug. 26 after the driver of a fuel truck likely fell asleep while driving. The driver then veered into an unoccupied ODOT vehicle stationed at the scene of the initial crash before hitting the water, the OSP crash report states.
“ODOT and Northwestern Towing were at that location planning the removal of a semi-truck and two trailers that had crashed into the Columbia River when a second semi hauling two fuel tanker trailers struck an unoccupied ODOT vehicle with its emergency lights on,” the OSP report reads. “The tanker truck left the roadway and crashed into the Columbia River next to the original semi-truck. The investigation revealed the driver likely fell asleep prior to striking the ODOT vehicle.”
Westbound traffic was diverted around the scene via Highway 30 and Highway 206 during the closure. Westbound I-84 traffic is still adjusting to the reopening in the area.