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California man dies in I-5 rollover

Authorities named a California man as the driver involved in a fatal single-vehicle rollover crash Tuesday afternoon outside of Ashland.

Robert D. Butler, 85, of Montague, Calif., was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash that occurred a few hundred yards south of Interstate 5 exit 19 at 2:36 p.m. Tuesday after his maroon 1990s Ford Expedition SUV apparently hit a guardrail and tumbled down an embankment into vegetation on the west side of the freeway, according to an Oregon State Police report.

Butler was driving alone and was not wearing his seat belt, according to a preliminary investigation. Crews had to cut open the SUV with the Jaws of Life to remove Butler's body from the vehicle. The wreckage shows that both front airbags deployed, and an OSP crash reconstruction team investigated the crash for several hours.

A lane of travel and the on-ramp to southbound I-5 were closed for several hours during the investigation, causing congestion and delays. Both lanes reopened just after 6 p.m., according to Oregon Department of Transportation releases.

Contributing factors in the fatal crash are still under investigation, according to the OSP release. A number of citizens stopped at the scene before emergency responders arrived, including a commercial truck driver and a man driving a motorhome, who left before speaking to troopers. OSP is asking witnesses of the crash to contact investigators at 541-664-8365.

Minutes after the Ashland crash, a second crash occurred near the I-5 viaduct in Medford, snarling northbound traffic on the freeway.

The crash at 2:42 p.m. on the viaduct involved three vehicles and briefly blocked both northbound lanes near milepost 28. The crash included a box truck that left debris across the lanes, ODOT reported. Traffic started moving shortly after 3 p.m., but delays lingered, officials said. Traffic cameras on the TripCheck website showed traffic was backed up to at least exit 27.

ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said the two crashes weren't related, and that roads were dry in Ashland and Medford.

"I think they're completely separate," Leaming said. "Sometimes those things happen."

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Jackson County Fire District 5 firefighters survey the scene of a fatal crash on Interstate 5 Tuesday near the southbound on-ramp at exit 19. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch