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A 4-year-old boy is taken to the hospital for injuries sustained in the crash Sunday afternoon

PHOTO COURTESY OF MARION COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - A two-vehicle head-on collision on Sunday afternoon on McKay Road left two dead and sent a young child to the hospital with injuries.

A two-vehicle head-on collision on Sunday afternoon on McKay Road left two dead and sent a young child to the hospital with injuries.

According to reports from the Marion County Sheriff's Office, the crash occurred around 1 p.m. Sunday on the deadly thoroughfare near its intersection with Case Road.

The drivers of the two vehicles -- Jessica Griego, 34, of Oregon City, and Martin Johnson, 65, of Willamina -- were both pronounced dead on the scene. Marion County investigators reported that witnesses said Griego's Lexus R350 was heading west when it crossed the center line and collided with Johnson's Ford Explorer.

It is unclear at this time if speed, alcohol or other distractions were a factor in the crash.

Griego's 4-year-old son was transported to a Portland hospital where he is listed in good condition.

The incident is part of an unfortunate trend along McKay Road and in northern Marion County, where three individuals died in a collision in late March. Jorge Valdez-Espinoza, Joseph Ensign-Lewis and Leonel Sanchez-Jaimes were killed. Valdez-Espinoza's truck – believed to be traveling at a high rate of speed – collided with Ensign-Lewis's box van. Sanchez-Jaimes was in the passenger's seat alongside Valdez-Espinoza.

The stretch of road near St. Paul and Donald has now seen 12 deaths since the summer of 2018.

Sergeant Jeremy Landers, spokesman for the Marion County Sheriff's Office, said there were no updates on the cause of Sunday's crash.

"We place a very high priority on doing what we can to help promote safety throughout our community, especially in that area where there seems to have been a disproportionate amount of crashes," Landers said. "We're continuing to work with ODOT and Marion County Public Works on solutions to help with that area."

Speed has been a commonality among many of the fatal crashes along McKay Road and other nearby thoroughfares. As a result, MCSO conducted patrols in the area last month and issued 146 citations in eight hours – 93 for speeding, 20 for speeds between 75 and 90 mph in a 55 mph zone.

Another patrol is planned for June 27-28 in the same area, Landers said.

An answer to the crisis

On June 14 – two days before Sunday's deadly accident – Marion County announced that it plans to install "centerline rumble strips, profiled lane striping and other durable pavement markings" on roads throughout the county, including McKay Road.

The project is being funded by a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation totaling more than $1,000,000.

"Lane departure accidents, accidents resulting from vehicles crossing the centerline or running off the road, have increased nation-wide due to a number of factors, including distracted driving from cell phones and other devices," Brian Nicholas, director of Marion County Public Works, said in a June 14 release. "The enhancements installed by this project have been shown to reduce the frequency of lane departure accidents. ODOT has been a great partner in making these funds available to cities and counties."

State Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer), whose district includes the area of Sunday's crash, said he's making it a personal priority to alleviate the dangers of McKay Road for his constituents.

"I have had and been a part of multiple meetings over the years with both ODOT and Marion County," Post said in an email from the House floor Monday. "It seems as if all we do is meet and meet and meet. There's study after study. Meanwhile, people keep dying.

"Though I have supported the Newberg-Dundee bypass since first having been elected, I also realize that due to the fact that it's only partially done, there are people driving on back country farm roads at speeds that are similar to being on Interstate 5. The non-stop use of cell phones while driving is of course a factor. I am beyond frustrated and am begging the county and the state via ODOT to become even more proactive. We can't afford any more deaths."


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