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Fatal Crash Response Under Investigation

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By Steven Sandberg

CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. – Multiple agencies are looking into why it took two hours for emergency crews to respond to a fatal car crash outside Cave Junction.

By the time crews arrived on scene, 63-year-old Steven Michael Rubins was dead.

Oregon State Police said on October 6th, Rubins was driving his 1994 Buick Roadmaster near the 4600 block of Caves Highway when he lost control and rolled the car. Rubins was thrown from the vehicle and died on scene. The State Medical Examiner’s office said Rubins died instantly of head and neck injuries.

In an initial news release the next day, OSP said that officers had responded to the scene at 12:35 a.m., but people living near the scene of the crash disputed that timeline.

Jim Smith, who lives a few houses down along Caves Highway, said he heard the crash sometime after midnight and went out to investigate. He found the crashed car on its wheels in a neighbor’s front lawn. Smith said he looked around but did not see the driver.

“You didn’t see anybody,” Smith said. “The lights were on in the car but you couldn’t see no bodies or anything.”

Smith called 911 and was connected to an Oregon State Police trooper. According to Smith, the trooper asked Smith to take a second look to check for a body. Smith said he still did not see anyone, but said he was very clear to the trooper that a serious crash had taken place.

“Like I was telling him, [the driver] could have been thrown off anywhere,” Smith said.

Smith said no one responded to the scene, and he went home.

It took nearly two hours before Rubins’ body was found.

Illinois Valley Fire District, which has a station just four miles down the road on Caves Highway, wasn’t notified of the crash until 2:23 a.m., according to Fire Chief Dennis Hoke. PPL power employees who had gone to the scene to fix a broken power pole had discovered Rubins’ body a few feet from his car, and called 911. According to Hoke, when firefighters arrived on scene, Oregon State Police were not initially there.

But troopers arrived shortly after. Smith said he received a call from an OSP trooper close to 3 a.m., and was asked to return to the scene to give a statement. Smith met with the trooper there and shared his story again.

Now several agencies are reviewing how the incident was handled, and why there was not an immediate response. Grants Pass Police, which runs the Josephine County 911 Dispatch Center, is looking into the department’s policies. Oregon State Police are also conducting an internal review of how it was handled by the trooper and dispatchers. OSP said no employees have been placed on leave.

In a statement, OSP confirmed that there was a nearly two-hour gap between the first 911 call and when a trooper arrived on scene.

A friend of Rubins came to the scene to pay her respects a few days after the crash, and said she wants to know why no emergency crews were sent to the scene, especially with a fire station just minutes away on the same road.

“That’s just not OK,” said Colene Gonzalez. “I know somebody could have dispatched somebody out here.”

READ THE FULL STATEMENT FROM OREGON STATE POLICE:

“On October 6, 2013 at 12:35 a.m., an area resident called a dispatch center in Grants Pass to report a traffic crash. The call was forwarded to the OSP Southern Command Center dispatch. Information reported was the reporting person (RP) heard a loud crash, saw a vehicle off the road on its wheels and no one was seen around the vehicle.

The on duty trooper was in Grants Pass and was notified by our dispatch personnel of the call. He was provided a contact number for the reporting person and called him. The call confirmed the same information and that a power pole was damaged. PPL was notified to determine if they wanted to check the pole damage. After PPL personnel arrived on scene to inspect the damaged power pole, they found a male laying in the dark away from the vehicle off the road. Fire and medical were then notified around 2:30 a.m., and the trooper was notified of the new information and responded to the scene to investigate the crash.

Our department is in the midst of an internal review of how the call was handled by our trooper and involved dispatch personnel. No employees have been placed on any modified duty status at this time subject to the internal review.

On Friday, October 11, the State Medical Examiner’s Office completed an autopsy on the deceased male and determined the injuries sustained after ejection from the vehicle were sufficient to cause near instant death. If you have any questions related to the autopsy, please call Eugene Gray at 971-673-8201.

We understand the concerns of the reporting party in this matter. We are taking our internal review very seriously and will complete a thorough review into the facts regarding this incident.”

4 comments

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  1. J Smith says:

    Your report seems to imply that had Troopers been able to respond sooner that Mr. Rubins would not have died at the scene. The coroners report clearly states that his injuries were such that death was nearly instantaneous.

    While it is unfortunate that Mr. Rubins lost his life that night, it wasn’t until his body was discovered by PPL employees before any report of actual injuries were made to Emergency Services. The earlier report from Mr Smith was that he thought he heard a vehicle crash, but then stated.

    “You didn’t see anybody,” Smith said. “The lights were on in the car but you couldn’t see no bodies or anything.”

    After the severe cut backs to Josephine County Sheriff personnel, Oregon State Police simply do not have the resources to respond instantly to every call for service. This information unfortunately must be prioritized, and as there were no reported injuries it must be given a lower priority.

    Irregardless, OSP will conduct an investigation to save face publicly and continue to cover up just how ill equipped the department has been allowed to become and anyone involved in this incident will end up losing their job.

    At the end of the day, that’s all that seems to matter anymore. So long as someone gets punished.

  2. Milt says:

    Once again the cops screwed up and oh yes they will have cops investigating cops [ wow wonder how that will turn out] I am so tired of people sticking up for these people that are suppose to protect and serve us and they wonder why they can pass a budget WE are paying them until they start earning it then maybe they will get paid what they deserve. Budget cuts budget cuts that’s all I hear I call BS and BFD we all have budget cuts to deal with put the money you have where it belongs and will do the best good not in the pockets of the slackers in the office.

    1. Milt says:

      So once again my freedom of speech is being stopped by channel 12 to bad you guys are afraid of printing the truth or if it’s not inline with how or what you think is the truth.
      I will be waiting for you’re reply. This should be good lol

  3. Mike says:

    Milt,

    There’s no freedom of speech on here. If you want freedom to say what you want go someplace else. Channel 12 doesn’t have to publish everything or anything from you.. By the way, you really should know all the information before opening your big mouth. There’s only a few troopers on so what if they were busy on other calls? Sometimes you can’t just drop what your doing to run off for something else. Like the earlier post, dude was dead instantly so who really cares? The people in Josephine County are getting exactly what they’ve paid for. Nothing…

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