Tony Roth was taking his usual ride home after an ordinary day at work: north on Old Highway 99 on his way to his home in the Garden Valley area.
His mundane commute on Monday, March 29, quickly turned into something extraordinary.
“All I saw was a cloud of dust,” Roth remembers of that trip from his office at Avista Utilities along Old Highway 99 northbound. “I was about 200 yards away. I didn’t see what happened.”
Shortly before 5 p.m., the Douglas County 911 dispatch center began receiving reports of the crash. According to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, a 1997 Ford Crown Victoria was traveling north on Highway 99 when it drifted into the oncoming lane and sideswiped a southbound 2007 Saturn.
The Crown Victoria then collided head-on with a Jeep Renegade.
Roth was among the first people on the scene.
“At first we stopped to check on (Colleen Bendan, 72, of Winston), and there was a nurse (stopped) in front of me,” Roth said. “Then we look down the road and see a car on fire.”
Roth drove ahead to what would be the Crown Victoria with a fire in the engine compartment. He grabbed a fire extinguisher from his work truck and put out the fire. Meanwhile, a friend of Roth’s — who just happened to be at the scene — was attending to the driver of the Jeep Renegade, 65-year-old William Metcalf of Roseburg.
That was when Roth discovered Elizabeth Ann Calvillo-Hawelu, 33, of Winston, pinned in the passenger seat of the Crown Victoria.
Roth ran back to his truck and grabbed a digging bar, which he used to break the passenger door open and get Calvillo-Hawelu out of the car, just before first responders arrived.
The driver of the Crown Victoria, Kyle Allen Northern, 43, of Roseburg, was pronounced deceased at the scene. Calvillo-Hawelu and Metcalf were both transported to CHI Mercy Medical Center by ambulance, while Bendan sought a private ride to the same hospital.
Avista Utilities honored Roth with a silver coin, a safety award which commends its employees who go above and beyond to help their community. The rim of the coin reads “For Work. For Life. For Family.”
Roth has been with Avista for 34 years, and received his honor a mere nine months before his retirement. He said that his company has made a concerted effort to make sure both its employees and its fleet are equipped to handle the exact emergency Roth drove upon on March 29, including trauma kits on most of its fleet vehicles.