Three Klamath Falls residents died and two others were transferred to the hospital following a wreck on U.S. 97 Tuesday night, Feb. 15.

At approximately 11:45 p.m., the California Highway Patrol responded to the accident on U.S. 97 north of Deer Mountain Lodge.

According to a CHP press release, a 21-year-old Klamath Falls resident was driving his 2001 GMC Jimmy northbound on U.S. 97 at the end of a passing area north of Deer Mountain Lodge at an unknown speed, though witnesses estimated his speed at approximately 60 miles per hour or more.

Hood River, Ore. resident Robert Macdonald, 61, was driving a loaded semi-tractor and trailer combination southbound on U.S. 97 at approximately 30 miles per hour.
It was snowing, and there was a small amount of snow and slush on the roadway.

Chain control was in effect and 25 mile per hour regulatory signs were posted, according to the CHP.

The semi-tractor/trailer was chained, and the GMC Jimmy was not. Due to the GMC's speed and the prevailing slick road conditions, the driver lost control and skidded across the center lines and into the southbound traffic lanes. Macdonald slowed down and steered onto the shoulder in an attempt to avoid a collision as the GMC skidded into his path, the release said.

The right side of the GMC impacted with the front of the semi, resulting in major damage to the GMC.

The victims in the accident, according to a report from the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department, have been identified and families have been notified. The victims, all of Klamath Falls,  were Edgar Huciel Leal, age 24; Banessa Rodriguez, 24; and Donavan Hernandez, 3.

At least three of the occupants in the GMC were ejected, according to the CHP. The GMC came to rest to the west of U.S. 97, and the semi stopped on the west shoulder.

Another child and 21-year-old driver of the GMC were transported to Mercy Medical Center in Mount Shasta and then transferred to Mercy Medical Center in Redding, according to the release.

The child was then transferred to the U.C. Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and was reported to be doing well, according the Sheriff’s Department.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey, Sergeant Tharsing and Deputy Celeste Fowler responded to the scene along with CAL?FIRE and Mt. Shasta Ambulance to stand-by until the CHP arrived, the Sheriff’s Department reported.

Sheriff Lopey thanked the Sheriff’s, CHP, Fire, Ambulance, Caltrans and tow truck personnel who responded to the incident during a heavy snow storm. He reminds motorists that traveling at unsafe speeds for prevailing traffic conditions can often result in tragic consequences. It was also apparent, according to Lopey, that all vehicle occupants were not using occupant restraints which had tragic consequences.

“Please slow down during inclement weather, observe signs and warnings issued by Caltrans and wear your safety belts. Ensure child safety seats are installed, used properly and inspected by experts like the CHP.”

Anyone with further information about the incident that may not have been relayed to the CHP is asked to call Officer Nick Black or Officer Nick Roetto at 841-6006.