SR4 fatality collision
CATHLAMET — One couple was killed and another gravely injured in an Aug. 18 three-vehicle collision in Wahkiakum County.
The wreck occurred on Saturday afternoon as the two couples were headed toward Longview on State Route 4. William Neudorher, 56, of Vancouver, was driving a red 2016 Harley Davidson motorcycle with his wife, Patricia Neudorher, 54, behind him. Wayne Priest, 56, of Sequim, was riding a black 2015 Harley with his wife, Brenda Priest, 56.
Twenty-two-year-old Branson Meyers, of Longview, was driving his white 2014 Dodge Ram pickup truck eastbound on SR 4 near milepost 35 when he crossed the centerline, according to a Washington State Patrol collision memo. Branson’s truck struck both motorcycles. Neudorher’s motorcycle came to rest on the eastbound guardrail. Priest’s motorcycle came to rest on the westbound shoulder.
The Neudorhers both died at the scene. The Priests were airlifted to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver.
None of the drivers had been using drugs or alcohol. The Priests and Neudorhers were all using U.S. Department of Transportation-compliant helmets, and Meyers was using his seatbelt.
In an Aug. 21 phone interview, WSP Trooper Edward Quintero said the investigation is ongoing, but at this point, it does not appear that Meyers was acting with any criminal intent.
“Based on what we gathered at the scene and by talking to the driver of the pickup truck, we came to the conclusion that he was fatigued,” Quintero said. Investigators learned that Meyers had worked a graveyard shift the night before, and only gotten a couple hours of sleep after his shift ended. At the time of the crash, he was headed to the Wahkiakum County Fair, where he planned to meet up with his family. It’s not known yet whether Meyers actually fell asleep, but there are indications that he may have been so tired that his perceptions and reflexes were affected.
“He couldn’t articulate what he saw prior to the collision,” Quintero said.
WSP cited Meyers for second-degree negligent driving with a vulnerable user. Under state law, a “vulnerable user” is a person who is using a mode of transportation with minimal safety features and increased exposure in collisions, such as a horse, tractor or motorcycle. A person who is convicted of this offense can face a fine of $1,000 to $5,000 and a 90-day license suspension. In some cases, offenders can perform community service and go to traffic school in lieu of those penalties.
Court records show Meyers has never been charged with a traffic violation or crime in Washington or Oregon. Meyers is not likely to be charged with a more serious crime unless the investigation takes an unexpected turn, Quintero said. Meyers is cooperating with the investigation.
WSP Sgt. Brad Moon said the Priests will have to undergo intensive medical treatment.
“Both of them have significant lower body injuries. They both have multiple surgeries forthcoming,” Moon said. “Their injuries while traumatic and severe, are not life threatening.”