Off-duty firefighter from Bend dies in motorcycle crash with bear, SUV in central Oregon

Photo of Rhett Larsen from the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council, courtesy Bend Firefighters

WARM SPRINGS, Ore. – A 39-year-old off-duty firefighter died Saturday night after he crashed his motorcycle into a large bear on Highway 26, sending him into the path of oncoming traffic.

Rhett Larsen, 39, of Bend, died at the scene of Saturday night’s crash on Highway 26 near Warm Springs. Officials said he was returning home from a visit to Portland.

Authorities say Larsen crashed at about 7 p.m. when a large bear ran onto the highway in front of his motorcycle.

According to Oregon State Police, Larsen was thrown from his motorcycle and was hit by an oncoming Ford SUV.

The bear also died in the crash.

The SUV driver was flown to a hospital in a helicopter ambulance; no word on their current condition.

Rhett was hired on at the Bend Fire Department in October 2002 as a Firefighter/Paramedic, and was later promoted to Fire Engineer (Apparatus Operator) in the fall of 2016.

“He was a creative soul with a compassionate heart, an intelligent and well-loved team player. Rhett lived life to the fullest, and he loved his work as a firefighter/paramedic,” officials said. “The Bend Fire Department family misses Rhett deeply, and we are grateful for the generous and heartfelt outpouring of love and support from our community.”

The highway was closed for several hours for a crash investigation.

RELATED: Firefighters start fund for Larsen's family

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