State Patrol report blames motorcyclist killed during chase
Washington State Patrol
Trooper Travis Beebe's car is seen after it went down the ravine after motorcyclist Bjorn Larsen off Deer Park Road in 2012.
By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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“The proximate [immediate] cause of the motorcycle collision was Bjorn Larsen's decision to recklessly operate a motorcycle while willfully failing to stop,” said the 2-page summary of the May 8, 2012, collision compiled by the State Patrol's Major Accident Investigation Team.
That's a conclusion that Larsen's Forks-area parents dispute.
They said that Beebe contributed to Larsen's demise and have hired a lawyer to look into filing a lawsuit against the state over their son's death.
“They place the blame on Bjorn acting irresponsibly without accepting any blame for their actions,” Peter Larsen, Bjorn's father, said May 8 on the one-year anniversary of his son's death.
“My biggest question is why they put everyone's life at risk to chase down someone on a motorcycle,” Peter Larsen said.
“They had no reason to do that, outside of that he was speeding.”
The report gave this account of what happened seconds before Larsen died:
Larsen and Beebe were exceeding the speed limit around the same curve when they went down a ravine on a 25-mph portion of Deer Park Road 5.8 miles south of where it intersects with U.S. Highway 101.
Larsen, 36, vaulted over the embankment at a speed between 47 mph and 49 mph in his 650-cc Honda in a 25-mph zone and died at the scene.
Larsen's blood-alcohol content was .16, twice the legal limit of .08.
Less than two seconds later, Beebe, 37, entered the same curve at 61 mph, going over the embankment just east of the motorcycle's path.
“When he came over the rise in the road, [Beebe] saw the bike with its rear tire locked, disappearing over the bank,” the report said.
“Analysis shows the most reasonable location for the trooper when he saw the bike tire locked was 134-157 feet and 1.50-1.75 seconds behind.”
Beebe, who sustained bumps, cuts, bruises and sprains, was treated at Olympic Medical Center and released later that night.
His unmarked Ford Crown Victoria Interceptor, which State Patrol spokesman Shane Nelson said was valued at $40,000, was destroyed.
Beebe, stationed with the State Patrol's Port Angeles detachment, was suspended for one day without pay for violating the State Patrol's vehicle-pursuit policy by getting into the collision, State Patrol spokesman Dan Coon said.
Colleen Larsen, Bjorn's stepmother, said she and her husband were shocked by the State Patrol's findings.
Beebe put everyone who lives on Deer Park Road in danger by chasing her son at such high speeds, she said.
“We are just stunned they are claiming this entire accident is Bjorn's fault,” she said.
Larsen and Beebe, who both lived in Forks as teenagers, went to Forks High School at the same time, Larsen's parents said.
Larsen had “ample opportunity” to stop during the chase, Nelson said.
The report said at one point Larsen slowed to 5 mph, “waved [Beebe] up,” then sped off.
While the report says the proximate cause of the crash was Larsen's recklessness, Beebe's actions did not contribute to Larsen going off the road and into the ravine because the distance between the two was too great, Nelson said.
“There was no contact between the two vehicles at any time,” he said.
Beebe's only collision-related occurrence in the last five years occurred when his vehicle was rear-ended while he was on duty, and two other drivers were cited as causing the incident.
State Patrol Sgt. Gailin Hester, Beebe's superior in Port Angeles, said Beebe has had no other collisions while on duty.
Beebe did not respond to a request for an interview that was made through Hester.
Larsen's motorcycle did not have a motorcycle endorsement, he was wanted for failure to comply and failure to appear, and twice had been convicted of driving under the influence, according to the State Patrol report.
At the collision scene, he had 10.2 grams of marijuana and a metal pipe in his possession, and his blood tested positive for marijuana.
Had he been arrested, Larsen would have been charged with attempting to elude, driving under the influence, driving while his license was suspended, possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to the report.
His prior convictions included first-degree negligent driving, reckless driving and fourth-degree assault.
But the State Patrol could not identify Bjorn Larsen as having outstanding warrants because the motorcycle was not registered to him, and he was wearing a helmet, Peter Larsen said.
In addition, Bjorn Larsen went over the embankment about 1.5 miles from a locked gate at the end of Deer Park Road, his father said.
“There's no way he could have escaped them, and yet that happened,” he said.
Clallam County Sheriff's Deputy Matt Murphy was part of the pursuit and was behind Beebe during the chase.
The Clallam County Sheriff's Department reviewed Murphy's actions and determined that “he was acting within our policy,” Sheriff Bill Benedict said.
The State Patrol report gave this account of the chase:
It began after motorists on U.S. Highway 101 east of Monroe Road observed a motorcycle being operated erratically and at high speeds.
It was traveling east toward Deer Park Road while cutting in and out of traffic, at one point passing a vehicle while riding on the right shoulder.
Murphy was driving west on Highway 101 when he obtained a radar-gun reading of Larsen driving east through the Morse Creek curves at 65 mph in a posted 45-mph zone.
Murphy turned around at Cottonwood Lane and attempted a traffic stop as the vehicles neared South Bagley Creek Road.
Beebe, working speed enforcement across Highway 101 at North Bagley Creek Road, saw Murphy chasing the Larsen as Larsen made a quick U-turn on South Bagley Creek Road.
As Larsen sped back onto westbound Highway 101, Beebe obtained a radar reading of Larsen travelling 83 mph in a 60-mph zone.
Larsen turned south onto Deer Park Road followed by Beebe and then Murphy.
“Over the next 5.8 miles, Larsen failed to stop and a pursuit ensued with speeds reaching as high as 90 mph,” the report said.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: May 19. 2013 6:30PM