July 8, 2013
Three Oregon State Police (OSP) troopers recently received the Department’s “Harold R. Berg Lifesaving Award” for their heroic, lifesaving actions responding to a tragic multi-fatal and injury tour bus crash December 30, 2012 along Interstate 84 east of Pendleton.
OSP Superintendent Richard Evans presented the “Harold R. Berg Lifesaving Award” to Senior Trooper Rick Madsen, Senior Trooper Michael Mayer and Senior Trooper Aaron Dietz in front of family, friends and co-workers at the Pendleton Area Command office. The lifesaving award is presented to OSP employees who distinguish themselves by performing or reacting to a situation in a positive and professional manner which saves, or reduces the risk of loss of life of another person; and, where a strong possibility existed that if such action wasn’t taken, loss of life or serious injury would have resulted.
On December 30, 2013, a tour bus with 47 occupants traveled off the snow/ice covered westbound lanes of Interstate 84 near milepost 227, crashing through a guardrail and rolling approximately 200 feet down a steep embankment before coming to rest on its wheels at the bottom of a ravine. As the three OSP troopers and Umatilla Tribal Fire Department personnel were first to arrive on scene, the seriousness of the situation was clear and additional emergency resources were requested and dispatched.
Several bus occupants were ejected, many injured and some deceased outside of the bus. Others were still inside the bus and as the troopers moved down the steep snow/ice covered embankment they encountered several people in need of immediate medical care. Cries for help were coming from inside the bus.
As temperatures remained in the teens and knowing the bus scene wasn’t stabilized, they worked outside and in the crushed bus interior during the next 2 ½ hours under the harshest, gut-wrenching conditions to treat, care for, extricate, rescue, recover and help transport surviving patients. They also assisted with recovery and removal of the 9 deceased victims. Thirty-eight (38) others were injured - twelve critically - but if it wasn’t for the actions of these troopers and the paramedic, others may have also died from their injuries.
Senior Trooper Madsen, age 45, is a 13-year OSP veteran assigned to the Patrol Services Division. Senior Trooper Mayer, age 31, is an 8-year OSP veteran assigned to the Fish & Wildlife Division. Senior Trooper Dietz, age 37, is 8-year OSP veteran assigned to the Patrol Services Division.
The “Harold R. Berg Lifesaving Award” is named after Lieutenant Harold R. Berg who died May 10, 1975. Berg, while off duty, was contacted by a citizen who informed him that a boy scout was missing at Cape Lookout State Park. While attempting to search a cave near the water’s edge, he was washed out to sea.