Off-duty Bend firefighter dies in crash with bear

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WARM SPRINGS, Ore. (KOIN) — An off-duty Bend firefighter died Saturday night after a bear collided with his motorcycle —  causing him to get hit by another vehicle.

Oregon State Police said the crash happened near milepost 80 on Highway 26 in Warm Springs

According to the preliminary investigation, 39-year-old Rhett Larsen of Bend was traveling east when a large bear ran into his path. Authorities said he was unable to avoid the animal and struck it. Larsen was thrown from his motorcycle and hit by an SUV driving in the opposite direction.

The SUV then went off the road and rolled onto its side. The driver was taken to a hospital by Life Flight for treatment, although her condition is unclear.

Larsen suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. The bear also died as a result of the crash. 

The Bend Fire Department said Larsen was hired in 2002 as a firefighter/paramedic. 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.”

Due to the incident, the roadway was closed for nearly six hours.

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