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Crash critically injures chief of JCEMS

Motorcycle, car collision


by: SUSAN MATHENY - Debris is strewn across U.S. Highway 97 on Aug. 8, at the scene of a crash that critically injured Madras resident Don Heckathorn, chief of Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services.The chief of the Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services, Don Heckathorn, 64, was critically injured Aug. 8, when his motorcycle was struck by a car on U.S. Highway 97, at Dover Lane.

Heckathorn, who has managed JCEMS since March 2007, was northbound on the highway around 3 p.m., when an eastbound 1996 Cadillac, driven by Gerald Scott Green, 36, of Prineville, failed to stop at the stop sign on Dover Lane, and collided with Heckathorn's motorcycle.

According to Oregon State Police, which is investigating the crash, Heckathorn, who was riding a 2012 Harley Davidson motorcycle and wearing a helmet, sustained life-threatening injuries, and was transported by Lifeflight to St. Charles Bend. Green was not injured.

by: SUSAN MATHENY - Traffic is backed up all the way up the hill on U.S. Highway 97, following an accident in which a Cadillac collided with a motorcycle at the intersection with Dover Lane. The accident occurred around 3 p.m. Aug. 8.No citations had been issued as of Monday.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, JCEMS, Jefferson County Fire Department, and Oregon Department of Transportation assisted at the scene. The highway was closed for nearly an hour, and investigators remained at the scene for several hours.

Heckathorn, who was born in Nampa, Idaho, moved to Madras with his family in 1962. After earning an automotive technology certificate from Central Oregon Community College, he worked at Warm Springs Forest Products and volunteered with the ambulance and fire department.

In 1980, Heckathorn went to work for Metro West Ambulance in Hillsboro, and trained to become a paramedic, along with his brother George.

George Heckathorn returned to Madras in 1986, and became the ambulance chief in 1989, when Don Heckathorn was hired as assistant chief.

In January 2007, four years after his brother was diagnosed with kidney and brain cancers and two months after his brother stepped down from the chief position, Don Heckathorn was named the new chief. George Heckathorn died in 2010.

On Tuesday, Mike Lepin, assistant chief, said that JCEMS is taking it "day by day."

"Don’s still in critical condition," said Lepin, who is acting chief in Heckathorn's absence. Besides a head injury, Heckathorn suffered multiple broken bones.

The JCEMS Board of Directors met Monday night and asked Lepin to run the operation until they have more information. "It's still wait and see," he said.

Part-time and volunteer staff have pulled together to cover all shifts. "We're a big family," said Lepin. "We take care of our own."

"Don's made a great impact on the community here," he continued. "Because of who he is, it's affected not just us, but a lot of people. A lot of people here love Don."