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Ice causes five-car pileup on freeway

Oregon State Police troopers, highway maintenance crews and emergency responders were dispatched to multiple ice-related crashes Thursday morning, including a five-car pileup at Pleasant Valley.

The five-vehicle crash, which police said resulted in only minor injuries, began about 6:10 a.m. Thursday on Interstate 84 about 12 miles east of Baker City. Preliminary information indicates the chain-reaction crash was in the westbound lanes near Milepost 317 on the Pleasant Valley bridge, Lt. Dave MacManiman said in a press release.

Governor candidate in Baker Saturday

Chris Dudley, a Republican candidate for Oregon governor, will be in Baker City Saturday afternoon.

Assessor warns of property tax scam on e-mail

Baker County Assessor Kerry Savage is warning area residents not to fall for an e-mail offering to reduce their property tax assessments, for a fee of $189.

He said the e-mail forms resemble an official county document, but they aren’t.

At the top, the e-mail is titled “2010 Property Tax Reduction Form,” with an assessor’s ID number listed.

Savage said the e-mail does say, toward the bottom, that the company, Property Tax Adjusters of Granada Hills, Calif., is not a government agency.

“This is a California company soliciting people to pay money to appeal their property tax assessments,” Savage said.

Wind wreaks havoc in town

Gail Broyles’ 15-foot camp trailer caught the brunt of the tree’s force Monday afternoon when the spruce toppled due to high wind. Broyles was inside her duplex when the tree came down. She wasn’t hurt, and neither were her neighbors in the other side of the duplex on Bridge Street near the Powder River. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
Gail Broyles had been listening to the wind gusts whistling and moaning around her Baker City home Monday afternoon, but she wasn’t especially worried.

Until she heard the bang.

And felt the house shake.

“I look out and there’s a tree against the house,” Broyles said.

But the house didn’t get anywhere near the worst of it.

Popular BHS teacher dies

Erik Johnson, known as E.J., 49, had been at Baker High for 25 years

Although he didn’t feel well Monday, and hadn’t been for sometime, Erik Johnson spent the day at Baker High School, helping students.

Johnson, 49, was found dead at his home Tuesday morning by fellow teacher Dave Johnson. The cause of death was an “acute gastrointestinal hemorrhage,” said Dr. James Davis, Baker County medical examiner. He said it appeared that Erik Johnson died Monday night.

Dr. Davis said Erik’s brother, Scott, told him Erik had been feeling nauseous and hadn’t been eating well for several months.

“He said he’d been after Erik for quite a while to go see a doctor,” Davis said.

Johnson, known as E.J. to staff and students, was in his 25th year teaching math and health classes at BHS. During his tenure he also was an assistant baseball and football coach and served as head basketball and head track coach.

Dave Johnson, who also teaches math and is head football coach, said he and Erik walked out of the high school together for the last time Monday about 4:20 p.m.

At age 96, she's still on course

Barbara Sanders is proof that golf is indeed a lifetime sport.

She first swung a club in the 1940s and hasn’t missed a golfing season since.

She’ll turn 97 in June, and she still plays a few holes when she feels like it.

An empty course is her favorite to play.

“We skip around if there’s nobody on the course,” she says.

She’d hit the course even if she didn’t have a partner.

“I’d be here by myself, just having a ball,” she says.

But this year is the first she won’t pay for a season pass at Quail Ridge.

Instead, Billy Cunningham, who runs the course, has presented her with a lifetime membership — the first the golf course has ever awarded.

Blue Mt. national forests updating management plan

A document that will guide how the U.S. Forest Service manages almost 5 million acres in Northeastern Oregon is ready for the public’s perusal.

A document, but not the document.

The latter is still a couple years away.

What’s available now is called the “proposed action” for revising the long-term management plans for the Blue Mountain region’s three national forests: Wallowa-Whitman, Malheur and Umatilla.

(Although the bulk of the forests’ acres are in Oregon, about 310,000 acres of the Umatilla are in Washington, and the Wallowa-Whitman extends into Western Idaho.)

Wings over Baker air show returns in July


The Wings over Baker air show will return this July after a one-year hiatus.


Baker City Herald

After a one-year hiatus in 2009 prompted by the recession, an expanded Wings Over Baker air show is returning this summer with more food vendors and family activities than ever.

“There is going to be an air show,” said Mel Cross, president of the seven-member Wings Over Baker board that puts on the air show.

The event is scheduled at the Baker City Municipal Airport Friday and Saturday, July 23 and July 24, the weekend after Miners Jubilee.

“We decided to hold it the week after Miners Jubilee, partly to accommodate the vendors who want to stay in town and set up at the airport,” Cross said.

For the first time, the air show will be combined with another popular local event: the Durkee Steak Feed.

The steak feed — which also was canceled last year — will happen Friday evening at the airport.

Cross said he hopes the steak feed will become a permanent part of Wings Over Baker, like the traditional huckleberry pancake breakfast on Saturday morning.

Along with the steak feed, Cross said a beer garden will be set up, and musician Frank Carlson will perform Friday evening, when a night aerial fireworks show by Dan Buchanan Air Shows is scheduled.


Baker City girl dies in car crash


A Baker City girl died Friday afternoon when the 2001 Nissan Pathfinder she was riding in crashed on Highway 7 near Phillips Reservoir.


A 17-year-old Baker City girl who loved kids and wanted to be a pediatrician died Friday afternoon when the vehicle she was riding in rolled multiple times on Highway 7 near Phillips Reservoir.
Kayla Petty, a Baker High School student, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash near Milepost 36, about 14 miles southwest of Baker City, according to Oregon State Police.
Petty, along with three other BHS students, was returning from an overnight spring break camping trip.
The three other teenagers in the 2001 Nissan Pathfinder also were hurt, one of them critically. At least two of the four, including Petty, were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle.
Jeffery Givens, 18, who was riding in the back seat with Petty, suffered critical injuries, according to OSP. He was not wearing a seat belt, police said.
Givens was taken first by ambulance to St. Elizabeth Health Services in Baker City, then flown by Lifeflight to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, according to OSP.
Givens was released from the Boise hospital on Sunday, according to a spokeswoman at St. Alphonsus.
Katirah Huff, 15, who was riding in the front seat along with driver Kasey Knaus, 16, suffered serious injuries and was taken to St. Elizabeth.
Huff was treated at St. Elizabeth and released from the hospital on Saturday.
Knaus suffered non life-threatening injuries, and he was treated and released Friday at St. Elizabeth.
Although a report from OSP states that Knaus was ejected from the vehicle, according to an e-mail to the Baker City Herald from Kimberly Knaus, Kasey Knaus’ mother, both Kasey and Huff were wearing their seat belts, and neither was ejected from the vehicle.
Kasey Knaus was driving east toward Baker City when the Pathfinder drifted onto loose gravel on the highway shoulder on a curve, according to OSP Sr. Trooper Jeff Spencer.
Knaus tried to steer the vehicle back onto the pavement but lost control.
The Pathfinder rolled an unknown number of times before landing on its wheels on the opposite side of the guardrail, between the highway and the river.
The crash site is below Mason Dam where the highway parallels the Powder River through a gorge just east of California Gulch.
No other vehicles were involved in the accident, said Sgt. Larry Graves of the Oregon State Police office in La Grande.
“We had a witness who was right in front of them when it happened,” Graves said Friday afternoon.
Sr. Trooper Ryan Morehead from the La Grande OSP office was on the scene Friday afternoon doing a reconstruction of the crash, Graves said.
“We always call a crash reconstructionist out on fatal crashes,” Graves said.
The highway was dry at the time of the accident.
Preliminary results of the investigation are that neither drugs nor alcohol was a factor in the accident, Spencer said.
Highway 7 was closed for about 90 minutes after the accident.
The Baker County Sheriff's Office, Sumpter Quick Response, Baker City Fire Department and Oregon Department of Transportation assisted at the crash site.

Ed Merriman, Lisa Britton and Jayson Jacoby of the Baker City Herald contributed to this report.

A boon for early birdies at Quail Ridge


Chuck Butler, left, and Clarence Babski have been golfing together for 25 years along with friends Wayne Carpenter and Max Henry.


Baker City Herald

Baker City’s Quail Ridge Golf Course is still dormant, in the horticultural sense.
But local golfers, undeterred by drab brown fairways and bare trees, came out of hibernation almost a month ago.
Billy Cunningham is pretty pleased about that.
Cunningham owns Seven Iron LLC, the company that runs Quail Ridge under a lease deal with the city, which owns the 18-hole course.
Last year persistent wintry weather forced Cunningham to keep Quail Ridge closed until April 15.
This year the course opened the last week of February.
“We got off to an awfully quick start,” Cunningham said Thursday. “Everybody was antsy to get out on the course, and there was a lot of excitement built up.”
With just a handful of days left in March, the average high temperature for the month is running about five degrees warmer than a year ago.
Cunningham hopes spring’s relatively early onset will persuade more golfers to buy an annual pass, which entitles them to play as many rounds this year as they can fit into the schedule.

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