Six crashes, six years: Chemawa curve heads for tragedy

Photo from Sandra Kellogg’s front yard of the Chemawa curve. (KEIZERTIMES/Joey Cappelletti)

Sandra Kellogg and her husband moved into their house on Chemawa Road in Keizer in 2015. In the six years since, six cars have hurled through their property, defacing their yard and recently stopping only yards from their front door. 

“We’re at the point now when we hear it, I’m already on the phone with 911 before I’m even out the door,” said Kellogg. “I know there’s a wreck but I just don’t know what it is yet.”

The six accidents that have occured on the Kelloggs’ property since 2015 have ranged in severity. For some, the only damage is a scraped up yard, with the vehicle able to drive away from the incident. Others, however, have come close to ending in tragedy. 

On the night of Aug. 13, the Kellogg family was sitting in their living room watching a movie when they heard a familiar sound outside their house. A car, whose driver had fallen asleep at the wheel, had veered from the road and struck a boulder next to the Kelloggs’ driveway. The boulder had slowed the car, but it didn’t stop it.

The car skidded across the lawn, struck a tree and came to a rest in front of the Kelloggs’ house. Tail light glass embedded almost 20 feet up in the tree indicates that the car may have vertically flipped before coming to a rest on its side.

According to an incident report from Keizer Police, the driver was bloodied by the crash, and all three passengers were transported to the Salem Hospital Emergency Department for minor injuries and evaluations. 

Kellogg said if the car had been a couple feet to the right or left, and missed the tree, it would have barreled into the neighbor’s house. 

Photos taken by Sandra Kellogg following crashes. (Courtesy of Sandra Kellogg)

The Chemawa curve the Kelloggs’ house is located on, which has a 35 MPH speed limit, may not seem overly dangerous. But with an almost non-existent curb and a drop off into the Kelloggs’ property, even the smallest of mistakes can lead to cars being launched from the road into the yard.

A Keizer Police Department records request showed all six crashes on the Kelloggs’ property have actually occurred since 2017. Of the six police incident reports filed from those accidents, four mentioned the driver’s failure to negotiate the left turn as being a primary reason for the crash.

“Any moment a car could come flying through this yard,” Kellogg said as we stood in her yard. “I’m not going to be able to stop the wrecks, but if we could keep them on the road instead of flipping into the yard, that would be my goal.”

A couple years ago, the Kelloggs spent $600 installing boulders where most of the cars enter their yard. Kellogg said the boulders have done their job to slow the cars, but she believes something more significant needs to be done.

After the last accident, the responding police officer said to Kellogg, “It’s time for you to go to city council.”

Five days later, Kellogg spoke at a Keizer City Council meeting.

“We fear for our lives when we are playing in the yard with our granddaughter or even mowing the lawn,” said Kellogg. “I’m asking the city if you would work with us to hopefully put in more boulders or some idea of how to prevent this from happening.”

Mayor Cathy Clark directed staff to find a solution for Kelloggs’ yard and the entire Chemawa curve.

“There’s got to be a solution for this. And I’m sure there will be,” said Councilor Roland Herrera.

The Aug. 18 meeting wasn’t the first time the city has heard about the dangerous crashes at the Chemawa curve. 

In July, the city placed large boulders on Chemawa across from the Kelloggs’ house. According to Kellogg and police incident reports, the boulders were in response to a crash in which a distracted driver had driven his truck through a fence and into the back of a house. The homeowner said it was the second time in six months a car had driven through her fence. 

The city told Kellogg they couldn’t do anything for her side of the road as cars would just go through a guard rail.

In an interview with the Keizertimes, Public Works Director Bill Lawyer said, “I wouldn’t consider that a dangerous corner based on the history of crashes. I’m not ignoring the fact that there have been crashes, but based on traffic there haven’t been that many.”

He said the city is still looking at measures to deter the crashes, which the uneven grade of the yard has made difficult. 

Since the Aug. 18 meeting, Kellogg said the city has come to her to discuss the possibility of installing a guard rail or flattening the slope and installing larger boulders.

Kellogg said they are still contemplating the decision but are leaning towards asking the city to flatten the slope and install boulders.

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.