Portland performer survives Texas crash that left 5 people dead - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland performer survives Texas crash that killed 5 people

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He survived the unthinkable, and now a Portland man is fighting for his life in a Texas hospital.

Five people were killed near Amarillo, Texas, on Monday night, when a car ran a stop sign and was hit by a tractor-trailer on the passenger side, investigators said. The load being pulled by the semi came off the trailer and landed on top of the driver's side of the car, they added.

The crash killed Clinton Diaz, 20; Eric Harrison, 21; Amanda Starz, 20; Andrew Duncan, 20; and Julian Arredondo, 24, investigators said.

The lone survivor in the car was Timothy Johnson, 30, of Portland. He suffered critical injuries, investigators said.

As of Thursday night, Johnson remained in the intensive care unit at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo. His boyfriend told FOX 12 that he broke his neck in three places during the crash, and has a long recovery ahead of him.

Johnson grew up in Houston, Texas, and moved to Portland several years ago, friends said. He's a dancer, choreographer, teacher and actor.

To watch him perform on stage is like watching a master at work, friends said. It's been his passion since he was 6 years old.

"It's like seeing someone speak their first language," said friend Erin Shannon. "I've never known anyone who's lived to dance as much as Tim does. It's his entire life."

Johnson and the five other people in the car had attended an end-of-summer cast party for a musical drama called "Texas" just before the crash occurred, investigators said. "Texas" is a historical tale with fictional characters that tells the story of the Texas panhandle in the late 1800s, the show's executive director told FOX 12. Johnson was an actor and dance captain for the production this past season, he said. He's been a member for several years.

"He has no idea what's happening and when he wakes up and realizes that 'Oh my goodness, this all happened and I've lost 5 other members of the cast', it's gonna hit him hard," said friend Elizabeth "Biz" Erickson.

The local friends Johnson has made through various theater companies, schools and productions are now banding together hundreds of miles away from where he's recovering from his injuries, to offer their love and support.

"Thinking about the possibility of him not being able to dance is just really sad," said friend Robert Head.

Johnson's friends don't know what his prognosis will be. But those who know him personally are now gathering cards, pictures and notes of encouragement to add to a care package that will be sent to him next week, they said.

"I think all of us want him to know how much we care about him and how much we're gonna support him no matter what happens. No matter what his prognosis is," said friend Megan Misslin.    

Since they can't be by Johnson's side, it's their way of showing him how much they care.

"We're all being positive for his sake," Misslin said.

Johnson's friends are also trying to set-up a fund and organize a benefit in October to help him with medical expenses. Updates on those efforts can be found by clicking the related Facebook link.

Investigators haven't determined if alcohol was a factor in the crash, they said. Alcoholic beverage containers were found in the car after the crash, they added.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, Theron McSay, suffered head lacerations, but is expected to be okay, investigators said.

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