Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Missing in Action

The Rev. David Schwartz, and his companion, Cheryl Gibbs, died minutes after impact when their Toyota Corolla left the road near milepost 26, on Highway 26, on June 8th. A state trooper out of Astoria, responding to a 9-1-1 dispatch that bounced back-and-forth between jurisdictions (and left out some critical information in the process), checked both sides of the highway between mileposts 25 and 27 in multiple passes that failed to yield any trace of Schwartz’s car. Elsie-Vinemaple Fire Department members also checked both sides of the highway between the 25 and 27 mile markers, producing exactly the same results.

It’s no surprise that searchers failed to locate the car. In the absence of skid marks or other indicators to pinpoint exactly where Schwartz’s Corolla left the road, searchers hadn’t a clue where to look. That the wrecked car was obscured by heavy brush 20 feet down an embankment and couldn’t be seen from the road further complicated the task. A Civil Air Patrol pilot finally spotted the car from the air on Sunday, July 1st.

Family members of the deceased victims were quick to criticize the Oregon State Police, the 9-1-1 dispatchers who, admittedly, screwed up (but the screw-up had no bearing on whether Schwartz and Gibbs lived or died), the State of Oregon, and even the Portland Police Department for its (non) role in the sorry chain of events.

While I can understand their pain, I don’t understand their anger or their rush to place the blame for this senseless tragedy anywhere except for where the blame rightfully belongs. By that I mean squarely on the victims themselves.

I can hear the howls of outrage: What? Blame the victims (hey, it works in rape cases)? That’s preposterous! Yada, yada, yada . . .!

Damned right, blame the victims. At the time of this particular incident, Schwartz was in violation of at least two Oregon laws; he failed to maintain control of his vehicle, and his seat belt wasn’t fastened. He may have been in violation of others. For certain, had Schwartz been operating within the law none of this would have happened. Untold numbers of people wouldn’t have wasted untold numbers of hours conducting a fruitless search, and Schwartz’s family would have had no excuse to blindly unleash their self-righteous indignation against various Oregon agencies that—regardless of their degree of competence or total lack thereof—tried to help.

Before idiot Californians come to Oregon and do stupid things, the consequences of which they then attribute to Oregonians and the State of Oregon, they should take a hard look at their own incompetence and make the necessary adjustments. They could start by checking their stupidity at the border. If they must hold on to their stupidity, they can always pick it up on the way back.

People like Rev. Schwartz, James Kim, and the mountain climbers that died on Mt. Hood last winter put Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest to the test, and prove it every time. Evolution takes care of its own.