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Motorcyclist killed in head-on crash on Highway 199

Death is at least the fourth on the highway this year

A motorcyclist was killed Wednesday in a head-on crash on U.S. 199, also known as Redwood Highway, according to Oregon State Police.

At about 4:55 p.m., near milepost 6, a southbound Ford F-550 pickup operated by Robert Clair, 31, from Grants Pass, crossed the center line of the highway and struck a northbound Harley-Davidson motorcycle operated by Johnny Porter, 45, from Cave Junction, OSP reported.

Porter was ejected from the motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene. Clair was not injured in the crash. U.S. 199 was closed for about one hour.

OSP was assisted by the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, ODOT, AMR, Rural Metro Fire and Grants Pass Fire.

At least three other fatal crashes have been reported on the highway so far this year.

On Jan. 24, Eddie Bartley, 72, of Grants Pass, was killed, and another driver, from Dallas, was rushed to a Medford hospital following a head-on crash on Redwood Highway near Wonder. The crash occurred at 12:48 p.m. near milepost 10 and the Elliott Creek Road intersection, according to a news release from Oregon State Police and Rural Metro Fire.

On April 24, Gregory Williams, 48, was riding his Janus motorcycle southbound on Highway 199 at about 12:45 p.m., when for unknown reasons he left the roadway outside Selma at mile marker 16 and crashed into a guardrail, according to OSP.

Williams was ejected from the motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene.

On May 23, Jesse Kozechen, 29, of Brazil, swerved near Selma to avoid traffic that had slowed for a turning vehicle. He over-corrected and lost control, sliding into the southbound lane, where he collided with a Ford Escape, operated by Eileen Huss, 62, of Selma, OSP reported.

Kozechen was pronounced dead at the scene. Huss was transported with injuries. Huss’ 2-year-old passenger was uninjured.

In addition to the deaths reported on the road this year, OSP reported that a bicyclist was severely injured in a hit-and-run crash on Redwood Highway July 17 or 18.

OSP said the cyclist was struck at milepost 27, just south of Kerby, sometime between the late evening hours of July 17 and the early morning hours of July 18. The victim was discovered in a ditch with severe injuries and was transported to an area hospital. The driver of the suspect vehicle did not stop and continued traveling north on Highway 199.

U.S. 199 is known as one of the most dangerous roads in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Transportation held an open house July 26 in Kerby to solicit community feedback on the Highway 199 Corridor Plan, an effort to make the highway safer. The plan covers the section of the road from the Applegate River near Selma to the California border.

The full length of the road goes from Interstate 5 in Grants Pass to U.S. Highway 101 on the coast.

ODOT data shows that 417 crashes were reported from 2014 to 2019 on the Oregon stretch of the highway covered by the corridor plan. Of those, 41 were fatal and severe-injury crashes.

In 2021, OSP responded to 2,201 calls for service on Highway 199, responded to 345 reports of crashes and conducted 3,537 traffic stops.

Reach Mail Tribune Editor-in-Chief David Smigelski at 541-776-4484 or dsmigelski@rosebudmedia.com.