Wednesday, January 26, 2011/lk
A Parkdale father of five who regularly cooked at Parkdale Elementary barbecues died Thursday morning attempting to cross Interstate 84 in Hood River.
Ramiro Najera, 48, was pronounced dead at the scene.
"He was a loving father and husband, a hard worker and a contributor to our community," said Kim Vogel, principal of Parkdale Elementary, where Ramiro was active, along with his wife, Beatrice.
Najera was fatally injured in the early morning hours of Jan. 20 on I-84 eastbound at the milepost 63 interchange in Hood River.
The incident occurred at 1:20 a.m. Najera was hit by a 2009 white truck pulling a semi-trailer driven by Jeff D. Rainey, 38, from Washougal, Wash.
"It's a shocking tragedy He was a very kind man, a wonderful family man," said his employer, Margaret Euwer.
"Ramiro worked for us over 30 years. He was a skilled pruner and shaper of trees, knowledgeable about horticulture and had many responsibilities associated with the orchards.
"He was a dependable, kind and caring person who helped train new workers. He had various jobs such as tractor driving, managing irrigation and myriad other responsibilities. He was always cheerful and willing to learn new tasks, honest and trustworthy, a beloved and cherished member of our longstanding crew."
"I don't think we ever had an employee who was easier to get along with," said Euwer's daughter, Jennifer. "He was trustworthy and faithful, and did everything as well as he could; and he did it well."
"Ramiro has a large extended family. We are all devastated," Vogel said. "He leaves behind a lovely wife who comes every day to learn English at my school and support her children, five children who are all excellent students, and a brother (Alfredo) who is now supporting not only his own family, including a daughter in college, but his sister-in-law and her children.
"The school is providing support, working on a collection to assist with arrangements, and counselors on standby.
"The two youngest are here today; normal is good, routine is good," Vogel said. Najera also has two children at Wy'east Middle School and a child who attends Hood River Valley High School.
According to Vogel, Ramiro had returned by Greyhound after a trip to Mexico. Beatrice had waited for him at the former Greyhound bus stop on Portway Avenue, north of the I-84, unaware that it had moved to the Cascade and First streets, south of the freeway.
Ramiro attempted to get his heavy luggage, full of gifts, to where he knew she was waiting, and stashed them behind a business on Highway 35, then heading back to Portway Avenue, according to Vogel.
"We may never know why he chose to take a short cut across a construction zone rather than go the long way, or why he didn't see the truck lights or hear the noise."
"After waiting for three hours, she finally left, thinking she would get a message from him about being late. Instead, she got a visit from the police telling her he had died trying to reach her," Vogel said.
The school is working with other agencies to provide support the family. All the elementary teachers visited the family Thursday. "We're a community school," Vogel said.
Oregon State Police and Hood River Police provided these details on Najera's death: The commercial truck, carrying paper products, was eastbound on I-84 near milepost 63 when it struck Najera, who was attempting to cross the traffic lane from the south to the north side, according to Oregon State Police Sgt. Pat Shortt.
Najera had climbed over a 3-foot barrier in the highway work zone to gain access into the eastbound lane before he was struck, according to Shortt.
The section of interstate freeway involved in the accident is currently a highway work zone with eastbound traffic narrowed to one lane of travel. Conditions were dark and the area unlit at the time of the incident.
Rainey, who was not injured in the crash, was driving for Gardner Trucking Inc. out of Chino, Calif.
OSP troopers from The Dalles area command office are continuing the investigation.
No citations are expected to be issued to the driver. There is no evidence of alcohol as a contributing factor for the driver or pedestrian.
According to Hood River Police Chief Bruce Ludwig. officers Mike Martin and Aaron Jubitz and Sgt. Andy Rau were first on the scene and, along with ODOT employees, assisted OSP in setting up the traffic diversion through Hood River.
Hood River County Sheriff's Office and Hood River Fire Department also assisted at the scene.
Eastbound I-84 lanes were closed for about three hours before being reopened about 4:30 a.m.