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Strangers, friends rush to help mayor

Pete Truax suffers broken ribs, facial lacerations in motor scooter accident


Pete TruaxBill Ballard was standing on his front porch about 8 p.m. last Wednesday, May 7, when a guy on a motor scooter passed by, heading northwest on Thatcher Road. The engine’s drone began to fade as it moved off.

“Then I heard silence and a crash and plastic breaking,” recalled the 56-year-old Ballard, who operates the Iron Horse Garage next to his home. He called to his wife, Jeanne Pfluke, and began dialing 911.

Pfluke, 58, ran to the corner of Thatcher and Watercrest Drive, where she found a man lying wet and crumpled in a flooded ditch.

She got him to stop trying to take his helmet off (which can aggravate neck or head injuries in an accident), then watched him put his hand to his face and bring it back down covered in blood.

“That freaked him out,” said Pfluke, who put her hand on the man’s shoulder and started a conversation to calm him down. She told him help was on the way and they talked about his broken moped and she asked his name.

At first she thought he said “Steve,” but even if she’d heard “Pete Truax” correctly it wouldn’t have meant anything to her. Pfluke has never been to a city council meeting and doesn’t follow local politics very closely.

Only after the lights, sirens and emergency responders arrived did she learn she’d been helping Forest Grove’s 67-year-old mayor.

Pete Truax remained in Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Tuesday morning, where he was treated for five broken ribs and other “serious but not life-threatening” injuries, according to Bev Maughan, assistant to City Manager Michael Sykes and a friend of the Truax family.

Truax spent three days in the intensive-care unit before he was transferred to a regular room Saturday. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Mayor Pete Truax was having trouble breathing when Jeanne Pfluke (left) reached him and stayed with him until emergency responders arrived. Her husband, Bill Ballard, soon reached the accident site.

“He’s healing,” the mayor’s wife, Pat, said over the weekend. “But his face looks like he was in a fight and was losing.”

Truax, who has been mayor since 2009, was riding home from a First Wednesday event in downtown Forest Grove when he hit a patch of gravel while turning left onto Watercrest Drive, according to Forest Grove Police Capt. Mike Herb.

“He hit some loose gravel and it threw him in the ditch,” Maughan said.

According to Herb, the mayor’s facial injuries were severe enough that one of the responding paramedics didn’t recognize him right away.

Doctors performed surgery on his diaphragm Thursday morning after he had problems breathing and inserted a breathing tube, Maughan said, adding that doctors expect a full recovery.

A former Forest Grove School District teacher and athletic director, Truax apparently kept his dry sense of humor even through his pain. When Officer Scott Griffith arrived and asked how he was doing, Truax responded, “I’ve been better,” according to Herb.

City Council President Tom Johnston was meeting with Fire Chief Michael Kinkade when the call came in. He rushed to the accident scene and was barely able to say hello to Truax before emergency responders loaded the mayor onto a LifeFlight helicopter that landed in Ballard’s and Pfluke’s field.

“I touched his arm and said ‘I’m checking on you,’” said Johnston, who has known Truax for many years and worked with him at the high school.

Forest Grove Fire Marshal Dave Nemeyer went to Truax’s home in the Forest Gale Heights neighborhood to get Pat Truax, and brought her to the scene.

Truax was LifeFlighted for precautionary reasons — mainly to get him to the hospital more quickly, said Nemeyer. “We were looking at some pain areas he was having ... there are a lot of internal organs involved.”

The mayor was “conscious and talking to us the whole time,” said Nemeyer, who added that it was unclear whether Truax hit a concrete culvert in the ditch where the scooter landed.

Pfluke and Ballard reflected on the crash Monday at their home, where they’re holding the mayor’s broken scooter for him.

“It was just incredible Bill happened to be on the front porch that night,” Pfluke said, “because there wasn’t a lot of traffic. It could have been a long time before someone found him.”



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