‘It was so messy’: Driver recounts US 101 hagfish sliming

As he saw the truck approaching a construction site flagger on U.S.

101, Kevin White remembers telling his wife he didn’t think the truck would be able to stop. “And sure enough, he didn’t.” White’s 2017 Ford F150 was one of four vehicles involved in a chain-reaction collision caused by a heaving helping of hagfish on Thursday, dumped from a swerving truck.

One of the bins struck the first vehicle of the four, dousing it with slime. Also, thousands of slime eels fell out of bins and onto the highway, creating an enormous clean-up operation for authorities. The clean-up continued Saturday and the incident remains under investigation, officials said Saturday.

White also remembers what came to mind when he stepped onto the pavement. “Snot,” the 67-year-old property management employee from Tigard said Saturday. White, his wife, and his son were heading south from Lincoln City to Newport when they came to a construction site on the highway near Cape Foulweather about 3 miles south of Depoe Bay.

The family had been on a coastal vacation, which ended Saturday. White stopped behind the three autos in front of him: a 2017 Nissan driven by Kim Randall, 64, of Arizona, at the front, followed by a Honda CRV, driven by Rachel Craven of Toledo; and then a white Ford Focus, driven by either Kristine Torp or Melissa Waage. Those vehicle were stopped behind a construction dump truck waiting to make a left turn on the highway, with the assistance of a flagger.

“We’d been sitting there for a couple of minutes,” White said, when the flagger allowed a construction dump truck to make a left turn. As that happened, White saw the approaching truck of AA Seafood Inc. of Depoe Bay. The truck carried 13 bins of hagfish, as the creature is more properly known.

That many hagfish, it turns out, weighs 7,500 pounds. “I don’t think he’ll be able to stop,” White said to his wife, Donna. As White describes it, the truck swerved to its left to avoid hitting the construction dump truck, then swerved to its right to avoid hitting the Nissan, Honda CRV, Ford Focus and F150.

The bins broke loose and one them bashed into Randall’s Nissan. “It was kind of surreal,” White said, “because we could see it all happening.” “At first, I thought, ‘those are porta-potties,” White said. “Then I thought, ‘oh no.

This is awful.'” The hagfish dumped onto the road and quickly began emitting the stress-induced slime that, along with the incident itself, has earned hagfish everywhere their 15 minutes of global fame and inspiring know-it-alls everywhere to note the creatures are not eels. “It was so messy,” White said.

The hagfish truck driver — Salvatore Tragale, 59, of Lincoln City – emerged from his truck and “he certainly seemed apologetic,” White said. “He said, ‘I did the best I could.’ He did. He did all he could to avoid hitting anybody.” Tragale joined two other people in the truck cab in attempting to corral slithering hagfish and place them back in their blue bins.

Asked about White’s description of the left-turning dump truck, Oregon State Police Lt. Cari Boud said in an email, “From my understanding there was a dump truck but it did not turn in front of the fish truck. The truck did not swerve to avoid the dump truck,” adding, “The trooper is investigating all angles of the crash and has spoken to all witnesses and drivers.

The investigation is still pending.” White and his family were returning Saturday to their Tigard home. There, he said he planned to wash his vehicle, again.

“I’ve washed it three times and there’s still stuff underneath,” he said, adding that it’s also on the shoes that he wore that day. White said the incident could have ended with more injuries. Randall’s unspecified injury was the only one reported and it was not considered serious.

“If the driver had turned over, if he’d tipped all the way,” White said, the bins could have landed squarely on one or more of the vehicles. –Allan Brettman [email protected][1]

503-294-5900

@allanbrettman[2]

References

  1. ^ [email protected] (www.oregonlive.com)
  2. ^ allanbrettman (twitter.com)

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