Drunk driver arrested after fatal crash

This brown 1978 Jeep CJ5 was involved in a fatal crash on Sept. 7, after an intoxicated driver lost control of the vehicle. (Photo courtesy of the Oregon State Police)

NEWPORT — On Saturday, Sept. 7, at about 5:55 p.m., the Oregon State Police (OSP) and other local emergency personnel responded to the report of a single-vehicle, serious injury crash near the intersection of Highway 20 and Yaquina Heights Drive, near the eastern city limits of Newport.

Preliminary investigation revealed Michael John Craycraft, 52, of Newport, was driving a brown 1978 Jeep CJ5 eastbound on Highway 20 when Craycraft lost control of the Jeep, began to spin off the south side of the roadway and struck an embankment. The unrestrained passenger, Rhawnie Lynn Harp, 40, of Waldport, was ejected from the vehicle. In a court document, a police officer wrote that Craycraft said he lost control of the vehicle while shifting from second to third gear. At that time, the officer observed signs of intoxication and the scent of alcohol on Craycraft’s breath.

Harp was transported by ambulance to Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Newport where her body succumbed to her injuries, and she was pronounced deceased.

Craycraft was transported to the same hospital where he was kept overnight, due to his injuries. Hospital tests on Craycraft revealed a blood alcohol content level over the legal limit of .08 percent.

Highway 20 was closed to one lane for approximately three hours following the crash. The crashed vehicle was towed from the scene by Coast Towing. OSP was assisted by the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office, Oregon Department of Transportation, Pacific West Ambulance and Newport Fire.

On Sept. 8, Craycraft was released from the hospital and was immediately placed under arrest and lodged at the Lincoln County Jail on charges of manslaughter in the second degree, driving while under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and recklessly endangering another person. Craycraft was additionally charged with criminally negligent homicide by the district attorney’s office.

On Sept. 9, Craycraft was released on bail with an additional condition: “no use of alcoholic beverages.” His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 8:30 a.m.

A fundraiser has been started for the family of Rhawnie Harp, which can be contributed to at: gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-rhawnie-harper. A celebration of life will be held at South Beach Church at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12.

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