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Family of injured Terwilliger firefighter battles for workers comp

73-year-old John Houdeshell suffered life threating injuries after he was struck by the car on highway 126 near the Terwilliger Fire base camp in Rainbow.

Posted: Feb. 22, 2019 6:23 PM
Updated: Feb. 22, 2019 6:48 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- The family of a California wildland firefighter who was injured in a hit-and-run during the Terwilliger Fire is fighting for workers compensation after being denied by an insurance company.

John Houdeshell, 73, suffered life-threating injuries after he was struck by a car on Highway 126 near the Terwilliger Fire base camp in Rainbow. Houdeshell worked on the fire as water tender driver.

RELATED: TERWILLIGER FIRE FIREFIGHTER STRUCK BY VAN IN HIT AND RUN

Houdeshell's son Ryan said his dad was hit while walking to his motel room for mandatory time off and his father is still recovering at a rehab center in Grants Pass.

"My father is somebody who always taught me right from wrong and do the right thing and take care of other people," Ryan said. "And here he is. I can't do anything for him. I'm trying my best, but I can't get treatment for him under certain guidelines because he doesn't have any insurance that's going to pay for it."

Oregon State Police said they still have not caught the driver.

MORE: FIREFIGHTERS FACING DANGEROUS CONDITIONS AS TERWILLIGER FIRE EXPLODES 

Ryan said they filed a workers compensation claim with SAIF, a nonprofit insurance company overseen by the state, but the claim was denied. They are now fighting the decision and have hired an attorney.

"He felt like he was going to be left to die on the side of the road," said Keith Semple, the Houdeshells' attorney. "And he still feels like he's being left to die on the side of the road."

A spokeswoman for SAIF told KEZI 9 News they could not comment on any pending litigation.

Semple said one reason SAIF denied the claim is because they claim it's an issue for his home state of California.

"Despite having paid Oregon taxes, being Oregon taxpayer and being on the job for Oregon putting his life on the line fighting our fires," Semple said.

Semple said a Worker’s Compensation Board hearing is pending, but it could be months away.

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