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February 3, 2014
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Crash claims life of retired Douglas County sheriff’s captain

A retired Douglas County sheriff’s captain who died in a three-vehicle crash Monday in Riddle will be remembered for his intelligence, leadership and upbeat attitude, former colleagues said today.

Robert Stratton, 72, of Riddle was killed when the pickup he was driving was hit by a car and sent skidding into the path of a loaded log truck at about 10:30 a.m. in the 700 block of Pruner Road.

Stratton worked for the sheriff’s office for 29 years before retiring in 2001.

“(His) whistling was distinctive,” sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Dwes Hutson said. “It was indicative of how he lived his life. He was a very upbeat, positive person.”

Sheriff John Hanlin said Stratton was a dedicated law enforcement professional.

“Captain Stratton was a mentor and friend to many of us who still work here at the sheriff’s office and will be greatly missed,” Hanlin said in a statement.

Stratton was driving a 2000 Ford F-350 pickup and pulling a trailer east on Riddle Bypass Road.

According to the sheriff’s office, a westbound 1997 Plymouth Neon driven by Kathy Taylor, 56, of Riddle turned left from Pruner Road and hit Stratton’s vehicle on the driver’s side.

Stratton’s pickup slid into the path of an oncoming log truck driven by Allan Stout, 64, of Grants Pass.

The truck hit the pickup’s driver’s side. Stratton was pronounced dead at the scene.

Taylor and Stout had minor injuries, but declined treatment at the scene.

Riddle resident Andrew McCracken, 23, was at work at Fry’s Custom Auto Body nearby when he heard the crash.

“Nothing but tires squealing and you could smell burnt rubber,” he said.

McCracken ran toward the accident and helped the log truck driver out of the smashed cab.

The driver was curled up under the seat when he got there, McCracken said. “He was in shock pretty bad.”

Logs were spilled on the road.

Hutson, who worked with Stratton for 14 years, said Stratton was a popular supervisor.

“He was a good cop. He was intelligent, but he was down to earth. He made you feel comfortable and at the same time he was a good supervisor and a good leader,” Hutson said.

Stratton started as a patrol deputy in 1972, was promoted to corporal in 1977 and again to sergeant in 1981. He moved up to lieutenant in 1989 and was finally promoted to captain before his retirement in 2001.

He was in charge of the Douglas County Jail from approximately 1997 through 2001, Hutson said.

He served as an accident reconstructionist for many years, Hutson said.

“That was kind of his specialty,” Hutson said. “He investigated and reconstructed serious and fatal accidents.”

Despite the work, Stratton was always positive, Hutson said.

“He was always in a good mood, always happy,” Hutson said. “He had a good sense of humor.”

Detective Angie Borigo, who has been with the sheriff’s office for 24 years, described Stratton as “a wonderful mentor and a good friend.”

Stratton was a family man who helped employees balance their professional and personal lives, she said.

“He was a really good family man. He stressed the importance of balance,” she said. “He really stressed that you want to go home at night. You don’t want anyone else raising your children.”

Sgt. Kelley Bean worked with Stratton at the jail from 1998 to 2001. He credited Stratton with encouraging him to transfer from the corrections division to the patrol division.

“He was very encouraging that we follow the career goals that we wanted to do,” he said. “He wasn’t just thinking about what would make his life easier as the supervisor. He was thinking about what would make us better officers.”

Bean, who was stationed at the Riddle office, used to see Stratton taking morning walks.

He said the news of Stratton’s death was “very difficult to take.”

“When I was a young officer he was one of the mentors that guided me toward the career path I took,” he said.

Stratton was also involved in the Riddle Fire Department before his retirement from there last year, Bean said.

The Riddle Fire Department, Oregon State Police, Douglas County Fire District No. 2 and the Douglas County Road Department assisted deputies on scene.

The accident remains under investigation today, and it is unclear if any charges will be filed, Hutson said.

According to a 2011 story in The News-Review, Stratton had a friendly baking rivalry with his wife, Marian. Both yearly entered the Cheesecake Division in the Douglas County Fair and one of them usually won.

Stratton was in a serious all-terrain vehicle accident in 2009. He was moving cattle between two fields in the 1100 block of Pruner Road when he crashed.

Hutson said Stratton served as a guide to deputies who served under him.

“He was a mentor to many of us here at the sheriff’s office,” Hutson said. “I can’t help but think I’ve been successful because of the foundation that was given to me early on in my career by men like Bob Stratton.”

• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or bswanback@nrtoday.com.

This version of the story was posted on nrtoday.com Monday:

RIDDLE — A retired Douglas County sheriff’s captain, Robert Stratton, was killed today in a three-vehicle crash in the 700 block of Pruner Road.

Stratton worked for 29 years in the sheriff’s office before retiring in 2001. He was 72 and a Riddle resident.

“Captain Robert Stratton was a dedicated law enforcement professional who served Douglas County with great pride,” Sheriff John Hanlin said in a written statement. “Captain Stratton was a mentor and friend to many of us who still work here at the sheriff’s office and will be greatly missed.”

The accident occurred about 10:30 a.m. Stratton was driving a 2000 Ford F-350 pickup and pulling a trailer east on Riddle Bypass Road.

According to the sheriff’s office, a 1997 Plymouth Neon driven by Kathy Taylor, 56, of Riddle turned left from Pruner Road and hit Stratton’s vehicle on the driver’s side.

Stratton’s pickup slid into the path of an oncoming, loaded log truck driven by Allan Stout, 64, of Grants Pass.

The truck hit the pickup’s driver’s side. Stratton was pronounced dead at the scene.

Taylor and Stout had minor injuries, but declined treatment at the scene.

Riddle resident Andrew McCracken, 23, was at work at Fry’s Custom Auto Body nearby when he heard a loud crash.

“Nothing but tires squealing and you could smell burnt rubber,” he said.

McCracken ran toward the accident and helped the log truck driver out of the smashed cab.

The driver complained of shoulder pain, McCracken said.

“He was in shock pretty bad,” he said.

The logs had shifted forward and pushed the cab forward. The driver’s seat came out the back of the cab.

McCracken said the driver was curled up under the seat when he got there.

Logs were spilled on the road and had to be removed.

The Riddle Fire Department, Oregon State Police, Douglas County Fire District 2 and the Douglas County Road Department assisted deputies on scene.

According to a 2011 story in The News-Review, Stratton has a friendly baking rivalry with his wife, Marian. Both yearly entered the Cheesecake Division in the Douglas County Fair and one of them usually won.

Stratton was in a serious all-terrain vehicle accident in 2009. He was moving cattle between two fields in the 1100 block of Pruner Road when he crashed.


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The News-Review Updated Feb 4, 2014 12:53PM Published Feb 6, 2014 08:46AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.