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MailTribune.com
  • Close call

    An employee in a van struck by a pickup in Medford on Monday says he's grateful to have survived but misses a co-worker who was killed
  • Dimas Rodriguez doesn't remember the impact that killed a co-worker and injured him and two others early Monday morning while they were on their way to work in the woods.
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  • Dimas Rodriguez doesn't remember the impact that killed a co-worker and injured him and two others early Monday morning while they were on their way to work in the woods.
    He's just glad to be alive.
    The Medford resident was in the back of a passenger van traveling through town at about 3:40 a.m. Monday when the crash occurred. He was one of seven reforestation workers from Pacific Coast Contracting Inc. on their way to a job in Glendale. Rodriguez would be clearing brush and piling it.
    The day's plans changed dramatically when the van drove through the intersection of Crater Lake and North Pacific highways, heading northbound on North Pacific. A pickup that police suspect ran a red light while heading west on Crater Lake slammed into the van. The van flipped onto its side as debris sprayed into the street. Rodriguez was knocked unconscious. He wasn't wearing a seatbelt.
    The driver of the pickup, identified as 34-year-old Leta Schroeder of Central Point, ran away, police said. Jackson County Sheriff's Department deputies tracked her to a White City home 14 hours later and contacted Medford police, who arrested her.
    Schroeder was arraigned Tuesday on charges of second-degree manslaughter — a Measure 11 crime — reckless driving and four counts of hit-and-run. She is held in lieu of $3 million bail at the Jackson County Jail, and has a pretrial conference scheduled for Monday.
    Police said they are looking into whether she was driving under the influence of intoxicants at the time of the crash.
    Rodriguez awoke later in a Providence Medford Medical Center hospital room. He had an injured collarbone, cuts and bruises, and pain in his neck and leg. He found out later that the crash had killed Efran Vargas-Urena, 23, of Medford. Rodriguez said through an interpreter that the two got along well and that Vargas-Urena was a "very happy person."
    Arnulfo Anaya, 23, of Medford, is still listed in critical condition at Providence, while 37-year-old Pedro Santana-Arriaga, address unknown, is listed in fair condition at Rogue Regional Medical Center, hospital officials said.
    The other three crew members walked away without injury. Police are not releasing their names.
    Rodriguez came to Medford for the first time two months ago on a work visa from Villa Purificacion, about a five-hour drive from Puerto Vallarta and the coast. His father, Elouterio Rodriguez Meza, had been coming to Oregon on visas to do similar work for 17 years. This year, Rodriguez took the trip with him. His mother still lives in Villa Purificacion; his 8-year-old brother Jonathan lives in Medford with family.
    Rodriguez has worked on reforestation jobs all over the Rogue Valley since his arrival. They were typical eight-hour days, five days a week. Rodriguez got along well with his other crew members. He and his father sent some of the money they earned home to their family.
    When he's not working, Rodriguez loves to fish, he said.
    Elouterio Rodriguez Meza was in Salem doing similar reforestation work when he found out his son had been in an accident.
    Rodriguez Meza said through an interpreter that for a second he thought the worst had happened and was relieved to hear his son was alive. He traveled to Medford to be with Rodriguez and has barely left his side since. Both men said it was wrong of Schroeder to run from the scene of an accident.
    On Thursday, Rodriguez was scheduled to start physical therapy. He still has some pain in his neck and shoulder. He wears a neck brace and has scrapes on his face. He's still able to nourish himself only with liquids, he said. A bottle of water and cup of orange juice sat on the table next to his bed.
    But he's grateful to be alive, and the support he's received from visitors has helped him heal, he said.
    Rodriguez said he plans to go back to work after he is well enough to be discharged from the hospital, though a date for his release is not yet set.
    Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.
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