Motorcycle Crash Kills Two, Injures Two in Chiloquin Oregon

Date: November 24, 2009
Location: Highway 97, near Chiloquin, Oregon
Names: John Lyman Howell, James M. Scott, Gary Couch, Susan Couch, Alan C. Galloway

After a crash on October 2, 2009, that killed two motorcyclists and injured a couple in an SUV, officials have asked for the public’s help in locating the next of kin of one of the motorcycle riders, John Lyman Howell, 65, of Reno, Nevada.

Oregon State Police Sergeant Mark Crisp told Portland Videojournalist Examiner that the crash took place around 12:45 PM, when a Ford SUV driven by Gary Couch, 63, of Redmond, Oregon, tried to pass a commercial truck on Highway 97 north of Chiloquin.

“As the Ford pulled out to pass, it did so in the path of a southbound motorcycle with two male occupants,” state police. The two riders were Howell and James M. Scott, 49, of Reno, Nevada. The SUV crashed head-on into the motorcycle, killing both Howell and Scott. The motorcycle went on to hit the front rear axle of the semi trailer being towed by the commercial truck.

Couch was taken by ambulance to Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls with minor injuries. His wife, Susan Couch, 68, who was a passenger in the car, was seriously injured and taken by air ambulance to the same hospital. The truck driver, Alan C. Galloway, 53, of Priest River, Idaho, escaped injury in the wreck.

The motorcyclists, Howell and Scott, had been traveling home to Nevada after visiting friends in Tulalip, Washington. KVAL.com reports that Howell was driving the motorcycle, and Scott was riding on the back. Although both riders were wearing helmets, they were pronounced dead at the scene.

Highway 97 was closed for three and a half hours while crews cleared the accident site. A state police investigation was ongoing as of October 5. Responding to the crash were the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Chiloquin Agency-Lake Fire District.

Authorities ask anyone who could help locate Howell’s family to call Oregon State Police Southern Command Center dispatch at 541-776-6111, and ask for Senior Trooper Joseph Smith at the Gilchrist work site.

Our hearts go out to the family and friends of everyone involved in this tragic accident. Anytime a motorcycle fatality occurs, we are reminded of the high injury and death rates for motorcycle riders. Several factors contribute to the potential risk: a motorcycle itself is more difficult to handle than a car, and two-wheeled vehicles are less stable than those with four wheels. Adding to the danger, some drivers may find motorcyclists harder to see, or just aren’t watchful of them. And a substantial factor in many crashes is inexperience. This is why we welcome the Oregon law requiring motorcycle skills training, and we are optimistic that this will make the roads safer for all.

There is no excuse for driving headlong into an oncoming motorcycle. In addition to our sympathy, we also bring to bear our fervent hope that that the families of Howell and Scott are found, and that the legal system is able to bring them a small bit of justice.