Eight Brookings’ residents on Friday survived what could have been two separate yet potentially fatal accidents just miles apart on North Bank Chetco River Road.
The first crash, just after 6 p.m., involved four teenagers from Brookings who walked away from a rollover accident that had Brookings Fire Chief Bill Sharp shaking his head in wonder that they survived.
“I would have said the chances of someone walking away from that wreck were a luck of the draw,” Sharp said. “It just wasn’t their time.”
A Toyota 4runner driven by 19-year old Thomas Weaver was headed up North Bank Chetco River Road just past Alfred E. Loeb State Park when a white car came travelling at a high rate of speed toward them on their side of the road, forcing them to veer off the road onto the shoulder, according to 18-year old Eric Hannum, a passenger in the car.
“It just came at us and we had to swerve to miss it,” he said. “We hit the shoulder and started to slide. We got back on the road but then Thomas overcorrected and we ended up in the ditch on the other side of the road.”
The 4runner came to a stop, upside down and its roof caved in, but all four occupants, Weaver, Hannum, 18-year old Daniel Holland and a 17-year-old teenage girl, were not seriously injured.
“I had a piece of glass in my knee,” the teenage girl was heard saying to a Cal-Ore paramedic, “but I got it out and I’m OK.”
The second crash, about 30 minutes later and six miles closer to Brookings, involved a red sedan driven by Patrick Hermes of Brookings.
Hermes and his girlfriend Katy Wiley, who owns the car, were headed back into Brookings with Wiley’s two children Sophi, 1, and Brylee, 2 1/2 ,when Hermes lost control and drove off the river side of the road.
The sedan glanced off one tree before becoming lodged between a second tree and the hillside, potentially saving the occupants’ lives.
“It’s a miracle they survived,” said Brookings resident Matt Myer, who was at the scene. “Especially those kids. I’m surprised they were all able to walk away.”
There were no apparent injuries to any of the occupants of the car driven by Hermes, and all were alert and active following the accident.
“I feel really lucky to be alive,” Wiley said as she looked down the bank at her car. “We were all wearing seatbelts and we’re just fine.”
Wiley said her first thought was her children and they seemed to behave normally, even just after the crash.
“They just kind of sat there and looked around,” she explained. “They were scared but you could tell they were OK.”
Hermes and Wiley initially lied to police about the accident though, claiming that Wiley was driving the car before it crashed.
When Sheriff Deputy John Ensley pointed out the overwhelming facts to the contrary – an abrasion on Hermes left shoulder from a seat belt and multiple eye witness statements – the couple told the truth.
Authorities determined that Hermes had been drinking at the river and had been driving in extreme excess of the speed limit prior to losing control and crashing on the north bank of the Chetco River.
Hermes was arrested and charged with three counts of reckless endangering, one count of reckless driving and one count of driving under the influence of intoxicants.
Wiley and her girls were picked up by her father and taken home.