WILSONVILLE, Ore. -- Two inmates in a roadside work crew were struck by a semi-truck on Interstate 5 near Wilsonville Tuesday morning, according to Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue.
Witnesses said the truck driver told them he choked on coffee and then passed out before hitting the workers.
One of the injured inmates was taken to Oregon Health & Science University hospital. The 40-year-old woman's injuries were serious, but did not appear to be life-threatening, according to TVF&R spokesman Piseth Pich. The other inmate was treated at the scene.
Chris Sturges works nearby and helped the victims.
"She looked at me and smiled. I looked at her and smiled back and she said, 'I just got hit by a truck' and she looked past me and saw the truck and said, 'My gosh, that is the truck that hit me?'"
The driver of the semi-truck, identified as Edwin Gagarin, 44, of Calif., was transported by ambulance to Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center where he was treated and released.
Two southbound lanes of I-5 were blocked during the investigation, along with a section of Southwest Boones Ferry Road. A huge backup quickly formed. All lanes were reopened just before 5 p.m.
The all-female Multnomah County inmate work crew was cleaning up litter and storm debris on the side of the freeway when the accident happened just before 10:30 a.m. Police said the inmates were wearing reflective vests and a sheriff's truck with flashing overhead lights was parked nearby.
Witnesses said the semi suddenly veered out of its lane, clipped the truck and hit the inmates before slamming into a fence along I-5 and rolling onto its side. Diesel fuel started leaking from the overturned truck and a HazMat crew was trying to contain the 25 to 50 gallon spill. Firefighters were also working with the Oregon Department of Transportation to pump the remaining fuel out of the truck's tanks.
Photos: I-5 accident scene
The semi-truck had been transporting paper products.