Beloved Oregon firefighter killed after striking bear on highway

An Oregon firefighter described by his colleagues as a “fun-loving, energetic soul” who “lived life to the fullest” is being mourned Monday after dying in a crash that was caused by a bear that ran in front of his motorcycle.

Oregon State Police said Rhett Larson, who worked at the Bend Fire Department, struck and killed the animal Saturday night on Highway 26 in Warm Springs and was thrown from his vehicle. The 39-year-old was then hit by an SUV heading the other way and was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The City of Bend and the Bend Fire Department family miss Rhett Larsen deeply, and are grateful for the generous and heartfelt outpouring of love and support from our community,” the city’s government said in a Facebook post.

The SUV went off the road after striking Larson and its driver was taken to a local hospital.

The city said Larson, a “creative soul with a compassionate heart, an intelligent and well-loved team player, has been with the Fire Department since 2002.

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“He lived life to the fullest, and he loved his work as a firefighter/paramedic,” it added.

The Bend Firefighters Local 227 said Larson is survived by his family.

“The loss of such a fun-loving, energetic soul is felt deeply by both our department and our community,” it wrote in a Facebook post.