No safety improvements expected for deadly stretch of road near Molalla

No safety improvements expected for deadly stretch of road near Molalla »Play Video
Alexandra Alexandrova Samoilov (left) and Marina Toran were killed when the car they were in went over an embankment and into the Molalla River on Saturday night.

MOLALLA, Ore. -- Families and friends are mourning the death of two teenage girls who died this weekend when the car they were in went over an embankment and into the Molalla River, about 7.5 miles south of Molalla.

The driver, Alexandra Samoilov, 19 of Canby and front passenger, Marina Toran, 19, of Salem both died in the crash, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, which released the names Monday.

"They're best friends. They lived on this earth as best friends and left as best friends," Leo Matveev said, a relative of both girls who showed up at the scene of the crash Monday.

Matveev said Samoilov went to Canby High School and Toran went to Gervais High School.

Three guy friends were also hurt in the crash: 21-year-old Feudosii Semerikov of Gervais; 20-year-old Dennis Frolov, who was visiting from Canada, and 20-year-old Antip Alagoz who was also visiting from Canada.

Several friends and family members of the girls came to the edge of the embankment and peeked over as best they could to see where the car fell into the Molalla River. The women and men were still dressed in the traditional Russian Orthodox clothing they wore during the girls' funerals, which were held Monday morning.

"Everybody loved them," Matveev said looking down at the river. "Everybody is hurting from this."

Matveev said the girls went swimming in the Molalla River Saturday, Aug. 2, with the three guy friends. They were heading home on S. Molalla Forest Road when the car traveled off the roadway, down a steep embankment, and into the river. It's about a 100 foot drop, according to investigators.

Clackamas County sheriff's deputies responded to a report of the single-vehicle crash at 8:05 p.m.

Matveev said Semerikov pulled two of the men out of the car and tried to pull the girls out of the car, but couldn't. He didn't explain why. Two of the men were transported to Portland-area hospitals by Life Flight, and the third man was taken to a hospital by ambulance.

As part of the investigation, deputies learned at least one passer-by helped the injured passengers at the crash scene until sheriff's office personnel arrived. When deputies arrived, two of them climbed down the embankment and pulled the men to safety.

Investigators said the water and steep embankment created a hazardous rescue operation for both the crash victims and first responders. Personnel from the sheriff's office's marine unit and dive/rescue team coordinated with the Clackamas County Water Rescue Consortium to rescue the injured passengers using specialized equipment.

The Clackamas County Water Rescue Consortium is comprised of personnel from the Clackamas County Sherriff's Office, Clackamas Fire District, Gladstone Fire Department, Lake Oswego Fire Department, Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, Estacada Rural Fire District, Canby Fire District, Sandy Fire District, and American Medical Response.

Clackamas County sheriff Sgt. Nathan Thompson said one of the passengers in the car admitted that some were drinking, but didn't specify who or where. At this point, Thompson said it's unclear if alcohol played a role and said the sheriff's office is still waiting for toxicology reports. Those results could take weeks.

One of Samoilov's friends, who declined to speak on camera, was convinced that Samoilov was not drinking. He said her grandmother recently passed away and according to the Russian Orthodox tradition, the friend said she was not supposed to drink for 40 days.

Matveev believed it was more likely that the sun's glare was to blame.

"I think maybe the sun glare because there were many times when we were driving down (S. Molalla Forest Road) and the sun's really bright and you can't see the road," Matveev told KATU. "Maybe that was the reason they crashed."

Matveev said the girls were "a blessing," and are, "truly going to be missed."

Road with a troubling history?

The On Your Side Investigators learned this was the second bad accident that occurred on S. Molalla Forest Rd. in the past eight months.

Just after midnight on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2013, Clackamas County received a 911 call reporting a car had gone off the roadway, down a 30-foot embankment, and landed upside down in the river. Two people were in the car at the time of the crash, and according to investigators, the car was almost completely submerged.

First responders found two men standing on top of the car, waiting for help. One man was the driver while the other was a passer-by who had stopped to help. The second person in the car, a woman, swam to shore and waited until crews arrived.

"You can just see around you how bad it is," neighbor Dan Martin said.

Martin said he's lived near S. Molalla Forest Road, which is used largely for logging, for nearly 50 years. He believes the winding road, which draws swimmers to the river and campers, is too narrow and has too few signs. He called the road dangerous.

He too came to the embankment to find out more information about what happened in Saturday's deadly crash.

The On Your Side Investigators asked deputies if they anticipated safety improvements along the road but they said no. Thompson, the spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, told KATU that he didn't believe the structure or design of the road was the problem in this most recent car crash. He believed it was more likely, based on the history of crashes along that stretch, that alcohol was more likely a factor. That said, Thompson said the sheriff's office was still investigating exactly what caused Saturday's deadly car wreck.