Crash claims fifth victim

June 24, 2002 11:00 pm
Bart Bailey, a 2000 Baker High School graduate, died from injuries sustained Friday in a van wreck in Colorado involving 11 wildland firefighters. ().
Bart Bailey, a 2000 Baker High School graduate, died from injuries sustained Friday in a van wreck in Colorado involving 11 wildland firefighters. ().

By JAYSON JACOBY

and CHRIS COLLINS

Of the Baker City Herald

Bart Bailey was a standout student who never tried to stand out.

"He stood out because of the kind of young man he was," said Jerry Peacock, principal at Baker High School, where Bailey graduated in 2000.

"He was the type of young man who had the qualities you hope your own children have."

Bailey, 20, died Monday afternoon at St. Mary's Hospital and Regional Medical Center at Grand Junction, Colo. He was the son of Carla Bailey, a former Baker City resident who recently moved to Arizona, and Jerry and Nancy Bailey of Baker City. His twin sister, Brandy, lives in Portland.

Bailey was admitted to the Colorado hospital Friday in critical condition with multiple trauma and head injuries, according to Jeff Kirtland, a hospital spokesman.

He was hurt when the van he was riding in crashed Friday afternoon on a western Colorado freeway. Bailey was one of 11 firefighters in the van, which was traveling from La Grande to the Hayman fire south of Denver.

Four others, including 28-year-old Dan Rama of Baker City, also died.

Bailey was sitting on the same bench seat as his best friend, Jason Staten, his classmate both at BHS and at Oregon State University at Corvallis.

Staten, who suffered minor injuries, returned to his parents' Baker City home Saturday night.

Staten said Bailey was "just a great guy."

Bailey also taught Staten to play tennis.

Bailey was one of the most accomplished students in Baker High's class of 2000, Peacock said.

"Bart was a very talented, a multi-talented young man," Peacock said. "He was a very good singer, and he was quite a little actor on stage."

Bailey excelled in the classroom as well, studying mathematics and science before enrolling in Oregon State's civil engineering program.

But he might be best remembered for his smile.

"Bart always had a smile for people," Peacock said. "He was as good on the inside as he was on the out."

Janet Van Diepen said Bailey had been like a brother to her son, Ben.

"He was an encourager and supporter of Ben," she said.

The boys first became friends as third-graders at South Baker Elementary School after the Van Diepens moved to Baker City from California. Ben was in class this morning in Portland and could not be reached for comment.

"They were always together," Janet Van Diepen said. "Everything they did, they did together."

The two performed in many plays at Baker High School, including "Guys and Dolls" as juniors and "The Fantastiks," in their senior year. Van Diepen directed the production, which featured Bailey in the main role.

The two also participated in the Bel Canto singing group during their high school careers. They placed second at the State Thespian Competition for Duo Musical Theater in April 2000, qualifying for the national competition at Lincoln, Neb. They also were part of a group of drama students who traveled to New York with teacher Lynne Burroughs, Janet Van Diepen said.

Bailey received the Class of 2000 Honor Thespian Award and several scholarships his senior year.

He continued to support his friend during performances at the University of Portland where Van Diepen is pursuing his interest in music and drama. Bailey brought friends from Corvallis to watch Van Diepen in an April performance of "Cabaret," Janet Van Diepen said.

"He would come and support him and always tell him how good he was," she said. "I'm sure Ben feels like a prop has been kicked out from under him because he was just that kind of quiet supporter.

"He was a sweet thoughtful friend; just a good, good guy — a terrific kid. When we moved here I was so glad Ben found him right away," she said. "This is just a terrible loss to everybody. He was a precious boy. We're gonna miss him terribly."