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Highway 101 crashes caused by sneezing, sleeping

A crash that left Highway 101 closed for nearly two hours was caused by sneezing, according to the driver.

At round 11:22 a.m. on Sunday, June 16, 75-year-old Lorraine Grant of Nehalem was traveling northbound on Highway 101 near milepost 76 in a white 2006 Cadillac Escalade. Police and witnesses said she drove off the eastern shoulder of the road and hit the end of a bridge guardrail.

The Escalade reportedly continued around 40 feet while rolling onto its top. Grant was suspended upside down in the vehicle. She was later extricated by Nestucca Rural Fire Protection District, ambulance service personnel and law enforcement. An air ambulance landing zone was set up at the intersection of Highway 101 and Sand Lake Road.

Oregon State Police (OSP) said the woman claimed she was sneezing when she lost control of the vehicle while negotiating a slight curve. There were no signs of impairment and the driver denied using drugs or alcohol.

Grant was flown by Life Flight to Salem Hospital in serious but stable condition. In addition to the fire and medical units, OSP was assisted at the scene by several deputies from the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office. The highway was shut down while the rescue was conducted. The vehicle was eventually removed from the scene by South County Towing.

A second crash occurred later in the day on Highway 101 at around milepost 56, south of Garibaldi. OSP said a driver admitted to falling asleep on the road, causing a head-on collision.

At around 4:38 p.m., a dark blue Toyota sedan driven by 35-year-old Samuel Leu of Alhambra, California, was traveling southbound when Leu reportedly dozed off and crossed the highway’s center line, colliding with an oncoming white Ford Taurus.

The Taurus driver was flown to Oregon Health & Science University. Leu and a passenger in the Toyota were taken to Adventist Health in Tillamook. Both vehicles were towed from the scene by Menefee’s Towing.

Leu was cited for careless driving, according to OSP.