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Bush was driver in Butte Falls crash, police say

BUTTE FALLS ' A man hurt in an apparent alcohol-related crash that killed his friend said Thursday he doesn't remember who was driving, even as police evidence indicated he was behind the wheel.

John Patrick Bush, 28, of Eagle Point, initially told police he wasn't driving when his 1970 Ford half-ton truck veered off Butte Falls Highway early Monday morning.

But preliminary autopsy and investigation results show that the dead man, Robert Andrew Bobby Baker, was a passenger, Jackson County Sheriff's Capt. Joe Puckett said.

We believe at this point that Mr. Bush was operating the vehicle, Puckett said Friday.

— That was based on the type and extent of the men's injuries and hair samples taken from the truck, Puckett said.

Baker, 29, of Butte Falls, died of head and internal injuries, Puckett said.

Bush, who was seriously injured in the crash, was discharged from Rogue Valley Medical Center Friday.

No one has been arrested in connection with the accident, Puckett said.

It could take four to six weeks to get test results that would show whether the men had been drinking.

Police, who found open beer containers in the cab of the truck, believe alcohol and speed were factors in incident, which occurred near milepost 11.5 on Butte Falls Highway. The westbound truck failed to negotiate a curve.

If Bush was driving, it would be the second time he was involved in a fatal wreck near the remote road. He was convicted of driving drunk in a 1994 crash on Obenchain Road near Butte Falls Highway that killed David Edward Buchanan, 21, of Central Point.

In that case, Bush was indicted on charges of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide as well, but those charges were dismissed.

Court records indicate Bush performed 80 hours of community service and paid &

36;754 in fines and fees.

A funeral for Baker is planned for 10 a.m. Monday at the Butte Falls Community Bible Church, the Rev. John Adams said.

Friends and family remembered Baker as a friendly, outgoing young man who had returned to Butte Falls about a year ago from California.

Everybody loved Bobby, said his aunt, Joyce Hailicka of Butte Falls. Bobby was short in stature, but he was big-hearted.

Baker's mother, Karen Todd of Butte Falls, said her son's beautiful laugh, beautiful smile, will be missed.

He loved kids, and he was the best uncle to his nieces and nephews, she said. They'll miss him horrible.

Adams, who will lead the funeral Monday, said the town of just over 400 residents is mourning the tragedy.

There is a sense that this was totally preventable, that it's just a waste to see one young life gone and another life messed up, either way, he said.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail