A woman who police believe caused the crash that killed a Myrtle Creek woman near Corvallis last year has been arrested and charged with manslaughter.
Valorie K. Carrigan, 36, of Blodgett was taken by police from her home Wednesday following a state police investigation into the Sept. 5 accident that claimed the life of Oregon State University senior Chelsea Duffy, 22. Another driver was seriously injured.
A grand jury indicted Carrigan on Wednesday morning. She was taken to the Linn County Jail and charged with four felonies: first-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault and two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver.
Police believe the crash comes down to Carrigan cutting off Duffy.
At about 2:45 p.m. on Sept. 5, Duffy was traveling east in the left lane of Highway 34 in a 2004 Pontiac Vibe. Carrigan, driving a 1995 GMC Suburban, was in the right eastbound lane.
They were about two miles outside Corvallis when police say Carrigan changed lanes in front of Duffy, striking the right front section of her car with the rear of the Suburban. Duffy lost control and traveled into the westbound left lane, colliding head-on with a 2003 Jeep Liberty driven by Larry F. Dodge of Shedd.
Duffy was pronounced dead at the scene. Dodge was seriously injured.
Duffy was not wearing a seat belt. Dodge was wearing his. Airbags in both vehicles deployed.
Carrigan was able to continue driving east on Highway 34. She returned to the scene and cooperated with police.
Traffic was blocked following the crash for about four hours.
Duffy, a 2008 South Umpqua High School graduate, hoped to go to medical school after college and become a neurosurgeon.
Chelsea Duffy’s mother, Carla Duffy of Myrtle Creek, said today her own tragic experience in a vehicle accident has helped prepare her for the upcoming prosecution.
She said she lost an unborn son when she was nine months pregnant in a collision with a drunken driver, who was eventually convicted of reckless driving and driving under the influence and sentenced to five years in prison.
“I understand these things take time,” she said.
Carla Duffy and her husband, Bill, a Roseburg High School teacher, have guardianship of Chelsea’s 1-year-old daughter, Zeza Duffy-Bbayaga.
Chelsea Duffy made a picture book for her daughter. Zeza calls it her “Mama Zeza Book,” her grandmother said, and the two go through it every night before prayers.
“She definitely knows who her mama is,” Carla Duffy said. “But it makes you wonder, what does she think about her not being here anymore?”
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at email@example.com.