BEND, Ore. - Thursday night was a tragic one on Central Oregon streets, as two deadly car-motorcycle crashes occurred within about minutes -- one in northeast Bend, the second just west of Redmond.
The first crash was reported in Bend around 8:20 p.m. on NE 27th Street near the always-busy intersection with Highway 20.
Police Sgt. Nick Parker said officers arrived to find the rider, identified Friday night as Matthew Francis Ruettgers, 24, of Bend, pinned beneath a 2002 Ford F1250 pickup truck, having already died.
Officers determined Ruettgers was riding south on 27th Street and struck the back of the pickup, which had been stopped for a red light at the intersection.
"Speed is believed to be a factor in the cause of the crash," Parker said, adding that the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet.
The pickup driver was unhurt. Highway 20 was partly blocked for a brief period and 27th street was blocked for about two hours.
Bend police asked any witnesses to the collision to contact them at (541) 693-6911.
One man said he was in a nearby store when he heard a screeching noise -- and then a loud boom.
"We couldn't get the truck off of him," said Tim McKenna. "One woman went right under that truck in short pants. She checked his pulse on his wrist and his neck twice. There was never a pulse, so he didn't suffer. And he had a helmet on -- it was too hard of an impact."
Two girls who were passing by the scene told us, "I talked to one of the girls who was out here and saw it. She said she heard everything and saw everything -- worst sound of her life. She was crying -- it was really hard. I could not imagine dealing with that."
The second fatal crash was reported around 9:25 p.m. on Highway 126 just west of Redmond, near milepost 109 (SW 55th Place), according to Redmond Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Chris Simmons.
Oregon State Police said a group of motorcyclists were heading east on the highway when, for an unknown reason, the rider on a 2005 Suzuki, identified as Gary Gerig, 48, of Redmond, "suddenly veered into the westbound lane" and into the path of a 1993 Cadillac driven by James Hershberger, 47, of Redmond.
Hershberger slowed and drove toward the shoulder but was unable to avoid the head-on crash, troopers said.
Witnesses said they saw sparks coming from Gerig's motorcycle just before it veered into the oncoming lane, OSP reported.
Gerig, was pronounced dead at the scene. He, too, was wearing a helmet, troopers said.
Hershberger and his wife, Melissa, 46, received minor injuries. They were wearing their seat belts, and were taken by Redmond Fire & Rescue ambulance to St. Charles Medical Center-Redmond.
Highway 126 was closed for about four hours due to the crash and subsequent investigation. Westbound traffic was detoured onto Helmholtz Way and eastbound traffic to Cline Falls Highway.
Deschutes County sheriff's deputies, Redmond police and fire medics, and ODOT assisted at the scene.