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From Frightening to Tragic: Oregon Coast Harrowing Encounters in Images

Published 03/09/23 at 5:23 AM
By Andre' GW Hagestedt

From Frightening to Tragic: Harrowing Encounters on Oregon Coast Caught In-Camera

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(Oregon Coast) – At the helm of a little something called Oregon Coast Beach Connection, it's simply part of the gig to be everywhere all at once along this shoreline. When you rove around the scenery, whizzing up and down Highway 101 and the adjacent beaches and towns for hours and hours a day, you're going to encounter a few unusual things. Even disturbing things. Running an online publication and being on the road that much is not all lovely scenery and fun discoveries. (All photos Andre' GW Hagestedt. Above: a sobering car wreck in Depoe Bay around 2010)

Sometimes you encounter the harrowing. I don't know what it was, but between 2009 and 2012, the early years of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, I managed to witness some rather unpleasant moments. Yet they're all something we can learn from – especially those visiting out here. Beyond just witnessing, I was able to capture it in-camera at least a little bit.

Semi Vs. Fallen Tree. One night in May of 2010 I'm zipping up Cape Foulweather on the central Oregon coast, heading south from Depoe Bay towards Newport. That stretch where you come around the corner from about Rodea Point and Whale Cove is quite dark, and you start up the long, winding hill that's even darker at night.

As I do so, I slowly notice some car lights far ahead of me with their emergency's on, and it doesn't appear to be going very fast. I can tell I'm gaining on it quickly, and it's in one of two lanes where passing is available. Luckily, I slow down – it's very hard to tell what's going on in the dark, and soon I realize it's not moving. Slowing down even more, instead of concentrating on passing it, I suddenly notice there is more than one vehicle here and a gigantic tree across the road.

The light in the distance is the approaching truck

Had I kept going at regular speed, I might not have seen the tree and barreled through. I get out and one civilian like me and another guy with a reflective vest – from some local government agency – are trying to set up an obvious road block. There is a way around it through one lane, and they're trying to make sure all other traffic see this thing.

I manage to snap a pic or two, figuring this might be useful later.

A split second before impact: the truck is frozen in time by the flash

Within a minute or so, we all see some big semi-trailer rig lights turn the corner at the top of the hill. He's coming at us in the opposite lane that we're in – thankfully. However, in spite of at least one of us flashing his brights and others with large, waving movements, this trucker doesn't appear to see us.

I manage to catch the rig just a split second before impact. With a humongous crunching noise, along with the screech of brakes being hit too late, the part of the tree he hits just explodes into pieces. He grinds to a halt about a full city block down the road. It turns out he blew a whole axle.

For one scary half a minute I thought the tree was going to pivot into any of us or our cars.

He said he'd only seen a couple of vehicles on the highway but couldn't properly see what was happening in the dark. That was almost me, I thought. It's a good thing I'm overcautious sometimes on the road, and the trucker dude admitted he should've been as well.

Lesson learned: Be overcautious on those Oregon coast roadways, especially at night.

Heartwrenching Dog Rescue. Again, it happened in Depoe Bay just a couple of months after the above incident, this time in busy, tourist-filled daylight around the seawall of this central Oregon coast hotspot.

Walking down the sidewalk, with camera ready in hand to snap all sorts of scenics, there's a woman crying and yelling, looking out over the seawall. A few others are surrounding her: there's a real hubbub going on, and I can't figure out why.

Some stranger informs me that the woman's dog went bounding after its ball, and when the ball flew over the seawall – not far from the spouting horn – he went sailing over the wall, crashing into the rocks below and sliding into the ocean. This, as is typical of Depoe Bay, was no calm surf. It was broiling and somewhat angry, and all I could see were big waves slamming onto jagged rocks.

I saw no dog.

Within a minute or less, I see four people on the pathway below, one holding a big, soaking wet golden retriever. They're an adorable breed, full of crazed energy and plenty of impulse, and it's not hard to understand how the dog would hop over an obstacle chasing its ball. The problem was a gnarly ocean was waiting for him.

Somehow, somebody fished him out, and I saw him just after rescue. I never did hear how that was accomplished.

The second photo shows him reunited with his doggo parents, and there's an obvious frightened, even disoriented look on his face. What you can't see – and I'll never forget – was how violently he was trembling. I heard the lady sobbing with relief, and in spite of plenty of petting, he didn't slow down that shaking.

Lesson learned: don't let your mutt loose and unleashed anywhere near rocky areas. Not to mention there's a busy highway right here.

A Tragic Accident. Sometime around 2010 or 11 or so, I'm hanging out with a friend who's working one of the shops in Depoe Bay. It's one heck of a busy day out there: traffic in Depoe is as bonkers as it gets. Suddenly we hear a horrible set of crashing noises outside. About a block away, there's a huge crowd by the time I poke my head out. (See the photo at top)

Within minutes, EMT's and police arrive, and with my instinct to record everything on camera, I snap the horrific scene. There's a motorcycle there, and though I couldn't see him, the rider was stuck under the car and quite mangled.

It took a few months to hear about it again. Apparently he's a much-loved local, and though he lived through it he wound up with some pretty bad permanent damage.

Lesson Learned: the car had evidently turned into traffic from a side street. This is always dangerous in heavy traffic in Depoe Bay, no matter what direction you're going. But forget turning left in these conditions. Just live with going right and turn around somewhere up the road where it's safe.

Big, Scary Sea Lion. It's getting late on the central Oregon coast, a little ways after dusk, but at Lincoln City's D River there are still hints of blue hour. I break out my tripod to take long exposures, and a car with a couple of girls pulls up. They head for the beach.

As they walk past the concrete wall of the parking lot, I hear some weird noise and they screamed – then laughed. I'm still taking pics when they walk past again and I ask them what happened.

“There's a big seal down there,” they said. “It barked at us.”

Sure enough, using my smaller, crappy camera, I see a big sea lion (not a seal as they said) right below me. Never once heard him, but he looks up at me not digging my camera. I take some shots, and call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network to let them know there's a big, barky thing lurking there in the dark. It was actually fairly amusing.

Apparently he left on his own, as they do. Sometimes they just need to rest, and the lesson to be learned is let them. Also, leave them alone. Sea lions can be quite aggressive and injure you pretty badly, but I've not heard a case of that yet on the Oregon coast.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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