Road worker killed, deputies say driver was intoxicated

Road worker killed, deputies say driver was intoxicated »Play Video
Photo courtesy of Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Inset: Gregory Priest/Family photo.

NEAR CANBY, Ore. - A construction worker was hit and killed by a car Tuesday evening just north of Canby and Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said the driver who hit him was under the influence.

Deputies identified the 48-year-old worker as Gregory Priest of Salem.

Priest was hit at about 7:40 p.m. on South New Era road near South Haines Road near Canby. Deputies said he was putting out signs warning of road work ahead when he was hit.

Deputies said Bruce Dancer, 41, has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants. Other charges may be pending.

Jail records show that Dancer is from Aurora, Ore.

Canby Fire Department personnel tried to resuscitate Priest before he was flown by LifeFlight to Legacy Emanuel Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Priest worked for a company called Knife River Corporation, which sells construction materials like concrete and asphalt.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Greg’s family, friends and co-workers as they deal with this unnecessary loss,” said Brian Gray, president of Knife River’s operations in Oregon. “This is a tragic reminder to drivers to slow down and pay extra attention in construction zones for their own safety and for the well-being of the men and women who are working there. Safety is more important to us than any job."

Knife River stopped work on this project on Wednesday so workers can grieve Priest's death. Counselors were also called in to help out employees.

The company said some employees wanted to work to help cope with the pain. They were assigned to other projects.

"Knife River asks that you watch out for them today and every day," the company said in a news release.

Priest was the father of two and had worked for Knife River for about a year doing contract work with ODOT.

Deputies said there are no known witnesses to the crash and they are asking for the public's help in the investigation. 

Family reaction

Priest's family sent KATU a statement Wednesday that said: "We want to thank everyone for their thoughts and the kindness they have extended to us today, and also for respecting our privacy during this difficult time. This is hard beyond words. Not only did we lose our fun-loving, hard-working Greg in that accident, but his 6-year-old son lost his father. We are a close family, which makes this so hard to take but also helps hold us together. We will miss our time with Greg -- particularly the fishing trips he loved so much -- and we will keep his memory alive for his son. Thank you again for your prayers and understanding."

Priest's girlfriend, Kristi Huddy, said that after four months of dating, they were already talking marriage. They spent Sunday night fishing Detroit Lake.
On her Facebook page she wrote:

"Devastation isn't a big enough word... theres (sic) no glue to put our hearts back together...i miss him so much"

Helicopter Rescue

Fourteen years ago, Priest risked his life trying to save a helicopter pilot in a fiery crash.

In 1998, Priest and longtime friend Dan Mitchell witnessed the helicopter crash in Sublimity, Ore.

"All of the sudden it just went into a nosedive straight down," Mitchell said Wednesday. "Greg took off running out across the field. When I showed up Greg was pulling one guy out of the helicopter. I ran over and seen the foot of another guy, tried to get to him, but by then the flames were too hot. We couldn't get the other guy out."

Neither Priest nor Mitchell knew the crash instantly killed the two men on board.

If anyone saw the crash, they are asked to contact the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office's confidential Tip Line by phone at 503-723-4949, or by using the online e-mail form.

KATU News reporter Patrick Preston contributed to this report.