Fatal crash response under official review

Driver died instantly; no one responded until two hours later

State and local authorities are reviewing whether proper procedures were followed when someone called 911 to report a late-night car crash in Southern Oregon, but no police or rescue personnel were sent until a couple of hours later, when the body of the driver was discovered.

Jim Smith of Cave Junction told The Grants Pass Daily Courier that he was sitting on his back porch on Caves Highway around midnight Oct. 5 when he heard the crash and ran to investigate.

When he described the scene to a dispatcher and a state trooper, he said the car was heavily damaged, but the driver was nowhere to be seen.

"I heard the dispatcher explain it to the officer: 'It looks like a car rolled several times,' " Smith said.

Smith said he went back to the crash scene at the request of the OSP officer and, using his cellphone, described the scene again.

He told the newspaper he figured the driver could have run off but an ambulance or fire truck would be on its way in case someone was hurt and out of sight.

No police or rescue personnel were dispatched until a couple of hours later, when someone else reported finding a body. It apparently was ejected when the car rolled over, and Smith didn't see it in the dark.

An autopsy done last week indicates the driver, 64-year-old Steven Michael Rubins of Cave Junction, died on impact of head and neck injuries, said Eugene Gray of the state medical examiner's office.

Paint markings left on the ground by investigators showed the body about 30 feet from the wreckage in the open in front of a house.

"If they would have dispatched someone when I called, they would have had spotlights to find him," Smith said.

State police spokesman Lt. Gregg Hastings said proper procedures were followed, but the agency is conducting an internal review. He noted that the car was reported to be upright.

The dispatcher followed protocol, but the case is being reviewed, said Bill Landis, patrol operations director for the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety.

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