I-5 crash slows traffic north of Ashland

A freeway crash between a tractor-trailer and a Jackson County road grader tangled traffic on Interstate 5 north of Ashland for much of Monday, but no one was seriously injured in the 10 a.m. wreck, Oregon State Police said.

"Things could have turned out much worse," said John Vial, director of the Jackson County Roads Department.

A Swift Transportation truck and trailer driven by Robert W. Cochran, of Anderson, Calif., was merging back into the slow lane in busy mid-morning traffic between the north Ashland and Talent freeway interchanges, OSP Trooper Brandon Boice said. Cochran told police he didn't see the grader until it was too late to move back into the fast lane and his truck struck the grader.

The grader rolled and flipped, ultimately landing in a roadside ditch facing south, Boice said. The truck veered off the road, coming to rest in the ditch with the rear of the trailer extending into the slow lane.

Cochran was cited on a charge of careless driving.

The driver of the grader, Jim Stith, a 30-year-veteran of the county's roads department, was taken to Providence Medford Medical Center with minor injuries, but was released Monday afternoon, officials said. Boice said Stith appeared to be following all safety guidelines and wasn't cited.

The crash closed one lane of the freeway for hours. The left-hand lane remained open, but traffic was slowed until the scene was cleared by mid-afternoon.

Three large tow trucks and a low-boy equipment-hauling trailer were used to pull the grader out of the ditch and took it to the county yard, Vial said. The damage still was being evaluated Monday afternoon, but Vial said it could be a total loss. He noted that at highway speeds, large vehicles such as graders and tractor-trailers have a lot of momentum and bring significant force to a collision.

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