WARM SPRINGS, OR -- An off-duty Bend Firefighter, heading home from Portland, was killed Saturday evening when a very large bear collided with his motorcycle on Highway 26, west of Warm Springs.
Oregon State Police say 39-year-old Rhett Larsen was eastbound when the black bear ran into his path. Larsen was thrown from his bike and struck by a westbound pickup pulling a trailer. The driver of the pickup was flown to the hospital with multiple injuries. Highway 26 was closed for six hours, due to the investigation. Witnesses described the bear, which was also pronounced dead at the scene, was the "largest black bear" they'd ever seen.
Larsen had worked for Bend Fire since 2002 and was promoted to fire engineer in 2016. The Bend Firefighter's union issued a statement saying, "Rhett was not only an exceptional firefighter, he was a loyal friend, respected mentor and loving father. The loss of such a fun-loving, energetic soul is felt deeply by both the Bend Fire Department and the Bend community."
It was one of several deadly crashes on Oregon highways, over the weekend. On Friday, four people were killed on Highway 30 in Clatsop County and one person was killed in Lane County on Highway 126. On Saturday, one person was killed on Highway 95 in eastern Oregon and another crash took the life of a driver in Lincoln County, on Highway 34.