Friend says driver in fatal wreck was drinking
Deceased child said to have been at a mountain party with his father shortly before crash
Alcohol may have been a factor in a car wreck near Mount Ashland that killed 11-year-old Dametri Martin of Medford, according to Jackson County Sgt. Dace Cochran and friend of the family Mike Standard, who was at a campfire with them just prior to the accident. The Chevy Blazer driven by the boy’s father, Jason Martin, whose fiancee was also a passenger, rolled 225 feet down a steep hillside.
Based on witness testimony, Cochran said, police are investigating the possibility of alcohol being involved. However, he said a blood-alcohol test on Martin on Wednesday, many hours after the accident, showed that his blood alcohol level was “negative.”
Martin, Kathleen Burbeula and Dametri were at a campfire before they drove off Forest Service Road 20 at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Standard told Cochran this morning.
Standard said some friends were drinking alcohol by a campfire on the mountain when the party began to get too rowdy.
Standard said Martin, 33, of Medford, was drinking Jack Daniels and some tequila. He thought Martin had become too rowdy for the party, which included at least two children. Standard said he asked Martin to leave if he could not behave himself. Instead, a fight broke out, according to Standard, who said Martin hit him in the back of the head with a large stick.
At that point, Martin, his fiancée and the boy left the party in what Standard described as an “angry” state of mind.
“I’m terribly sorry this happened,” Standard said. “He was in no shape to drive.” Cochran said Standard didn’t want to press charges against his friend for the assault.
Sheriff Mike Winters said the Blazer appeared to drive straight off the road with no sign of any skid marks.
“It looks like they flat out missed the corner,” Winters said. “We haven’t done the speed calculations yet.”
Cochran, who is investigating the accident today in Ashland, said the Chevy likely hit two trees on the way down the hillside. The car was found with the passenger’s side door leaning against a tree.
Police said the boy, who was not wearing a seat belt, was most likely killed instantly when he was ejected from the vehicle. Burbeula was also ejected from the vehicle.
Cochran said the two adults likely didn’t move during the night, though they communicated with each other. When the sun came up, they found the child dead about 30 feet behind the car, according to Cochran.
Burbeula, 32, suffered a broken arm and leg. Cochran did not know if Martin, who suffered a punctured a lung and bruised ribs, was also ejected.
At sunrise, Martin began to hike out from the steep hillside 3.5 miles north of Mount Ashland Ski Lodge. He hiked one mile to Grouse Gap, where he found a camper who let him use a cell phone to call for help.
“He wasn’t in great shape so I assume it took him a long time to hike out,” Cochran said, noting that authorities were alerted at 7:15 a.m.
Both Martin and Burbeula were airlifted by a Mercy Flights helicopter to Rogue Valley Medical Center.
Burbeula, known as “Kat,” is employed at the Wild Goose Cafe and Bar in Ashland as a bartender and waiter. An employee of the Wild Goose said Burbeula had surgery last night and is “scratched up from head to toe.”
“We all love Kat and we all love Jason,” the woman said. Martin was a regular at the Wild Goose. “We’re like one big happy family here and our hearts go out to them both.”
Martin is disabled and does not work. Friends said he has muscular dystrophy.
RVMC officials described Burbeula’s condition as “fair.” They said Martin is still in “serious” condition.
Dametri was pronounced dead on arrival by authorities. A friend of the family, Trish Bedford, of Ashland, said Dametri had moved from Oklahoma about six months ago. He’d lived with his mother for about the last eight years, and came to Oregon to be with his father.
“He was a real good kid,” she said, describing him as being quiet and having some learning challenges but being quite a normal young boy. “He was a great child. He was into all the things that little boys are into.”
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