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‘Gave me chills:’ Hundreds attend fundraiser for Bend family after Hwy. 97 crash kills 5, leaves girl, 11, critically injured

ODOT Hwy. 97 Klamath closure TripCheck 1-17
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Hwy 97 closed crash 1-17-2
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(Update: adding video, comments and video about fundraising efforts; update on injured girl)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Hundreds lined up to attend a Sunday fundraiser to benefit a Bend family who lost five members in a tragic crash on Highway 97 last week that has left the sole survivor, a 11-year-old girl, in critical condition.

The organizer of a GoFundMe page fundraiser, family friend Pedro Molina said, "We are friends with Juan Ochoa and we know each other for a long time. I wanted to do this to help the family."

By Friday evening, the page had raised more than $38,000 toward a $100,000 goal to help with family expenses. By Monday afternoon, that had more than doubled, to more than $77,000.

A fundraiser was held Sunday afternoon at at the Masonic Lodge on NE Eighth Street by the area's Latino community. A dance will also be held in the near future to raise additional funds for the family, Molina said.

Hundreds of people showed up to attend Sunday's event, with lines wrapping around the neighboring 7-Eleven store.

"Being there gave me chills," attendee Genna Rasmussen said Monday. "During such a tragic, hard time, people want to be together. They want to they want to grieve together. The community, strangers, everyone wants to help. And this is a way that we can help this family.”  

There were 10-15 vendors involved who donated all the food and supplies for the event.

Event organizer Narly Lemus Duran of Comunidades Unidas said, "We had lines lining up around 7-Eleven. it was amazing to see the community come together to support this cause."

According to Duran, the event raised $30,796 with funds being given to the family immediately. The Masonic Lodge hosted the event at no charge with the help of the Comunidades Unidas organization.

There will also be an additional fundraising event at El Patron Mexican Kitchen in Redmond from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. next Saturday. All proceeds will go to help cover the funeral costs and medical costs for lone survivor.

The injured girl's cousin, Juan Gutierrez Bacilio, updated NewsChannel 21 on Monday on her condition.

"As far as the 11-year-old, she is almost the same," Bacilio said. "We have received news from the doctor that she has moved her head and eyes, but they put her back in the same situation. They put her back to sleep. They don't want to damage her organs. They want her to be strong enough to make a full recovery."

A raffle also will be held later this week at a pending location. For more information go to the Facebook page of Comunidades Unidas organization. The remaining family is having a rosary for the Ochoas daily at 7 p.m. through Friday at the Ochoa-Saldaña residence.

The nephew of Juan Ochoa expressed his and the rest of the family's gratitude to the community.

"First of all, i want to thank everybody for the support that we have received through everything that is going on," he said. "Second of all, i want to say thank you to the community that has reached out economically, mentally, physically, in every aspect. We are very thankful for all that has been provided."

Oregon State Police and other first responders were called to the scene of the head-on crash around 9:45 a.m. last Wednesday near milepost 193, two miles north of the state Highway 58 junction in Klamath County.

Troopers said a preliminary investigation found that Juan Ochoa Bravo, 39, of Bend, was driving a Chrysler Pacifica heading north when he lost control and it slid into the southbound lane.

Troopers said an oncoming semi-truck driven by a 56-year-old Los Angeles man tried to avoid the minivan by swerving off to the highway shoulder. But the front passenger side of the Chrysler collided with the semi’s front end, causing significant damage and sending the Chrysler spinning back into the northbound lane.

Five people died at the scene: Bravo and four family members: Eve Saldana Alcantar, 37; Erik Ochoa Saldana, 18; a 15-year-old girl and a male infant, about 1 year old, OSP said. An 11-year-old girl also riding in the minivan was taken to an area hospital with critical injuries.

The truck driver reportedly was uninjured in the crash, which closed the highway for about five hours.

“Roadway conditions and several passengers not wearing proper safety restraints are primary factors in the crash,” OSP said.

Troopers were assisted at the crash scene by Crescent Fire and ODOT.

A ninth-grade student at Caldera High School was killed in the crash, as was a 2023 Bend Senior High School graduate, Bend-La Pine Schools Director of Communications Scott Maben said. The critically injured girl is a fifth-grader at Bear Creek Elementary School.

The school district learned of the crash and its ties to Bend schools on Wednesday. As a result, crisis response teams were made available Thursday for students and staff at those three schools, as well as at High Desert Middle School, which the teens attended previously.

"The teams have counselors specifically trained in helping people with grief," Maben explained.

Family members and friends of the victims set up fundraising web pages to cover costs of transporting the families bodies back to Bend, and hopefully to a specific spot in Mexico.

The fifth-grader is recovering at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland and according to Molina remains in critical condition in the ICU.

It was the first of two deadly crashes four miles apart that day on the highway, one of many around the state dealing with slick conditions from recent snow and ice.

Shortly before 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, OSP responded to a semi-vs.-pickup crash near milepost 197, two miles south of the Highway 58 junction.

An initial investigation found Michael Randolph Lasley, 78, of Clearlake, California, was driving a GMC pickup heading north when he crossed into the southbound lane and collided head-on with a southbound semi driven by a 29-year-old Grants Pass man.

Lasley died at the crash scene. The semi driver reportedly was uninjured. That crash also closed the highway for about five hours. OSP said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

By afternoon, a detour had been established using OR 58 to the Crescent Cutoff Road. They advised Crescent Cutoff Road is steep and winding. Be prepared for winter conditions. 

ODOT said the highway north of Chemult reopened by about 5 p.m.

Article Topic Follows: Klamath County

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Matthew Draxton

Matthew Draxton is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Matthew here.


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