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Instagram influencer killed in crash near Selma

Instagram photo A Brazilian man who was documenting a trip from Brazil to Alaska was killed Monday in a head-on crash on the Redwood Highway near Selma.

A resident of Brazil who had racked up 415,000 Instagram followers road tripping across the United States in an air-cooled Volkswagen with his golden retriever was killed Monday after his VW crashed into oncoming traffic along the Redwood Highway near Selma.

Jesse Kozechen, 29, of Brazil, died Monday morning on Highway 199 after his Volkswagen Beetle — sold in the Brazilian market as a VW Fusca — swerved into oncoming traffic while attempting to avoid slowing traffic and collided with an oncoming Ford Escape SUV about 10:30 a.m., according to Oregon State Police. The crash closed the highway for two hours.

Kozechen had swerved to pass a turning vehicle, but over-corrected and collided with a Ford Escape driven by Eileen Huss, 62, of Selma, and a 2-year-old passenger. Kozechen was pronounced dead at the scene. Huss was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital, and Huss’ 2-year-old passenger was uninjured, according to OSP.

Kozechen was also known on social media as Jesse Koz.

According to Kozechen’s website and 915 posts on his Instagram page, Kozechen had spent years on a meandering road trip with his golden retriever “Shurastey” in his Volkswagen, which was equipped with a camping tent on the roof.

In 2017, Kozechen was featured on the popular animal website and YouTube channel The Dodo for his dog’s unusual ability to mimic his facial expressions.

OSP Capt. Stephanie Bigman confirmed that a golden retriever had died with Kozechen in the VW. A pit bull in Huss’ SUV ran off with unknown injuries after the crash.

According to Kozechen’s Instagram page — under the handle @shurastey — he and his dog had traveled more than 50,000 miles since May 2017 on a journey that had taken him through South America, Mexico and across the United States. His goal was to reach Alaska.

According to his website (shurasety.com) in Portuguese, translated with the help of Google Translate, Kozechen said that he was spending 8 to 10 hours a day working at a mall in the southern Brazil resort city of Balneário Camboriú, and “decided that life is more than just waiting.”

“I wanted to do something new, something different, something that would make my heart flutter, that I would remember a few years from now and make me smile out of nowhere, just with the memory that my life was worth living,” Kozechen wrote.

He found inspiration from a backpackers group on social media, and accounts of people who traveled the world with no money. He sold all of his possessions, including an Xbox, and started off for Argentina.

His Instagram shows he kept traveling. In 2022, Kozechen traveled to U.S. landmarks in the VW that included the Washington Monument April 1, Times Square April 8, Route 66 April 27, Hollywood May 7 and the Golden Gate bridge May 18.

His most recent post described camping in the state of Oregon “in the middle of nowhere” with a goal of continuing toward Canada.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.