Wrong-way driver arrested after crash, chase

Police say a Grants Pass man caused a traffic accident while driving the wrong way on Interstate 5 before turning around and leading Oregon State Police on a six-mile jaunt that ended when he pulled off the freeway and was arrested.

OSP reported Sergey Zhura, 49, of Grants Pass, was cited on several charges, including reckless driving, recklessly endangering another person, failing to perform the duties of a driver in a traffic crash, second-degree criminal mischief and resisting arrest. Following his arrest, Zhura was transported to Asante Three Rivers Medical Center for a mental and medical evaluation.

The chase began at 5:41 a.m. when OSP were notified that a motorist in a 1990 Ford Econoline van was traveling south in I-5's northbound lanes near milepost 63. Police said Zhura sideswiped a Toyota Camry that tried to dodge him, but couldn't escape because a commercial truck was in the adjacent lane. The truck flashed its lights to get Zhura's attention, but that proved unsuccessful. The Toyota was sideswiped as its driver tried to swerve out of the way. Her name was not released.

"She hugged as close as she could toward the side of the truck and trailer to try and avoid it," OSP Lt. Gregg Hastings said.

Police said the woman was not injured.

After the crash, Zhura turned around without stopping, OSP said. He continued driving north on I-5. Eight miles away, near milepost 71 in Sunny Valley, an OSP trooper enforcing construction work zone laws spotted and tried to stop the van.

Zhura ignored the commands to pull over, and the trooper gave chase to milepost 77, where Zhura finally stopped. Zhura got out of the van, but initially refused to comply with the trooper's orders and allegedly resisted arrest before he was taken into police custody and to the hospital in Grants Pass.

It was not known how long he had been driving the wrong way on the freeway, Hastings said.

Wrong-way drivers contribute to 1.5 percent of fatal crashes nationwide, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

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