An off-duty firefighter has died after he struck a large bear on a Central Oregon highway.
Oregon State Police says 39-year-old Rhett Larsen, of Bend, died at the scene of Saturday night’s crash on Highway 26 near Warm Springs.
Authorities say Larsen struck the bear, which also died when it ran onto the highway around 7 p.m. Police say Larsen was thrown from his motorcycle and hit by a Ford SUV driving in the opposite direction.
The SUV driver was flown to a hospital with undisclosed injuries. State police did not immediately return a message Sunday regarding the driver’s condition. The collision closed the highway for several hours.
KOIN reported that the Bend Fire Department said Larsen was hired in 2002 as a firefighter. He was then promoted to fire engineer in the fall of 2016.
In a statement, the department said,
“He was a creative soul with a compassionate heart, an intelligent and well-loved team player. Rhett lived life to the fullest, and he loved his work as a firefighter/paramedic.”