Car goes off cliff, comes to rest on victim's head

WASCO, Ore. - A car slid off the edge of an icy Oregon highway and crashed 150 feet down a steep cliff early Saturday morning, pinning the head of one of the passengers under the wreckage, Oregon State Police said.

Volunteer emergency crews responded to the scene and went to work in darkness establishing rope lines to reach the crash victims.

Crews used inflatable airbags to lift the wreckage off of the head of an injured woman, then pulled her up to a waiting ambulance using a pulley system.

The rescue started when a woman flagged down a passing vehicle on Highway 206, about 12 miles east of Wasco, Oregon.

The woman, Jeanne Moles, 26, of John Day, told the motorists that her car was down the embankment, and that two people were injured.

One of the people in the passing car climbed up a hill until she could get a signal on her cellphone and call 911 to report the crash.

"They may very well have saved the injured lady's life," said Trooper Mike Holloran said.

Over the course of the next hour, emergency responders - many of them volunteers - arrived on scene.

The crews went to work setting up a rappelling system to reach the victims by rope. Once down the cliff to the scene of the crash, crews managed to get the 2000 Oldsmobile up off the head of 21-year-old Desiree Rutherford, 21, of Portland and pull her up by ropes to a waiting ambulance. Police said Rutherford was ejected from the car and pinned under the wreckage.

She was first taken to Mid Columbia Medical Center, then flown by air ambulance to St. Charles Medical Center in Bend with serious injuries, police said.

A second passenger, Jay Williams, 22, of Long Creek suffered minor injuries when he was thrown from the car near the top of the embankment. The driver, Moles, and another passenger, 24-year-old Matthew Sagaser of John Day, were not injured.

Emergency crews responded from multiple agencies, including South Sherman Fire Rescue, North Sherman Fire Rescue, Sherman County Rescue, Moro Rural Fire Rescue, Rufus Fire Rescue, Condon Ambulance, Sherman County Ambulance, Sherman County Sheriff's Office and Oregon State Police.