Gary Elliott Battin, 34, was killed on Sept. 27 when he chased an errant basketball out onto SE Roots Road in Milwaukie and ran head-first into a trailer loaded with machinery. The Carver resident died instantly, according to first responders.
'This was a terrible, tragic accident,' said Detective Jim Strovink, public information officer for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. 'He was playing basketball with a friend, and the ball bounced out into the street.'
At that moment, a pickup truck towing a trailer with heavy equipment onboard was rolling past the end of the driveway.
'His friend yelled for him not to chase it, but Gary was laughing and having a good time,' said Battin's mother, Sharon Battin.
Strovink recounted what happened next: 'The driver of the pickup truck sees this basketball coming out of the corner of his eye, and then he hears this 'thump.' He thought it was just the ball hitting his trailer, but then he looked back in his rearview mirror and saw a body lying in the street.'
Police speculate that Battin tripped and slammed head-first into a sign mounted on the side of the trailer, then fell under the oncoming tire.
'He never knew what he hit,' said Strovink.
Battin's mother said that the driver was distraught following the accident.
'The poor man who was driving the truck, they had him in an ambulance and they were trying to calm him down. His wife came and took care of him,' she said. 'We would like him to know that this was not his fault, nobody is to blame - it was just a senseless accident and only God knows why it happened.'
Crash scene investigators determined that the driver was proceeding westbound at the time of the accident, obeying the posted speed limit and operating his vehicle safely.
'He was just driving lawfully down the roadway,' said Strovink.
•A gentle spirit
Sharon Battin described her son as a friendly person who loved music.
'He was the nicest, gentlest person,' she said. 'I never saw him yell or get angry at anybody. People would go by and he would wave to them. I would ask if he knew them, and he would say, 'No.''
Battin attended Marshall High School, but he began to suffer from schizophrenia after he turned 18 and never graduated.
'It was three years before he was diagnosed,' she said.
After a brush with the law, Battin's illness was identified and he began to take medicine to treat his affliction. Living with his mother, Battin's progress was uneven. Then, in 2003, he vanished.
'I called the police, and because of his condition, they put out the alert to look for him right away,' she said. 'He had walked all the way from Johnson Creek Boulevard clear out to the other side of Hillsboro. They found him five days later.'
His mother discovered that Battin had been 'cheeking' his medicine - pretending to swallow it, and then spitting it out later in his bedroom.
'I found like 50 or 60 pills in there,' she said. 'When he came back, I told him that either he had to take his medicine, or he couldn't live here any more.'
Following that episode, Battin stayed with the treatment and his condition improved.
'He got his life back,' said his mother.
He enjoyed playing the guitar and would often perform for neighborhood children. He also possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of popular music.
'We were playing this trivia game about music, and he knew more than the rest of us put together,' she said. 'He loved rock and roll, but I once heard him tell his niece that I had converted him into an Elvis Presley fan.'