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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Oregon man awarded $10.5M in Mt. Hood Skibowl lawsuit accused in DUII crash that killed woman

The man awarded $10.5 million in court last year after he was paralyzed while mountain biking down the slopes of Mount Hood faces a manslaughter charge in Clackamas County for allegedly killing a woman in a drunken crash.

Court documents accuse Gabriel B. Owens of mixing alcohol and painkillers when he got behind the wheel of a Tesla Model S sedan and collided head-on with another driver on Southeast Jennifer Road at the railroad overpass near 82nd Avenue about noon on Sept. 8.

First responders extricated Kira Haston, 36, from her crushed pickup and transported her by helicopter to OHSU Hospital, where she was declared dead, according to her older brother and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office.

Her rescue dog, Rigby, was thrown from the crash and survived with minor leg injuries, according to the brother, who said Owens was operating the Tesla with a medical device designed for people with paraplegia.

Owens, 44, has been charged with DUII three times before, in 2001, 2006 and 2014, court records show. The first case and second cases were diverted to a treatment program, while Owens was sentenced to probation and 10 days in jail for his third offense.

He racked up more than a dozen traffic violations over the years, including for driving with a suspended license and speed racing. He was also sentenced to 10 days in jail for spitting on a Clackamas County Sheriff’s deputy in 2019, records show.

In this case, Owens is charged with DUII, reckless driving and first-degree manslaughter. He paid the full bail of $250,000 last Thursday, but prosecutors will ask a judge to revoke his release and forfeit the quarter million because he allegedly never showed up for a GPS tracker and sobriety monitor.

Reached for comment, Owens deferred comment to his attorney, who didn’t immediately respond to an email Tuesday.

In 2022, a Multnomah County jury awarded more than $11.4 million to Owens after finding Mt. Hood Skibowl responsible for his 2016 mountain bike crash on the double-black diamond Cannonball trail, which left Owens paralyzed from the waist down.

He settled post-verdict for $10.5 million, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported at the time.

At trial, his attorneys argued Owens was thrown from his bike while crossing a deep drainage ditch and collided head first with a sturdy trail crossing sign.

A summertime mountain biking ban put in place by Skibowl following the verdict remains in place.

Haston grew up in Yuma and Tuscon, Arizona, where she later taught high school math. A childhood interest in flight led Haston and her brother to paragliding, where Haston sought out hot-air currents that could keep her in the sky higher and longer, according to her brother.

“She would do that big-sky flying and I would just do the gentle smooth stuff,” said Kyle Haston. “She was successful at everything she put her mind to.”

Kira Haston later moved to Portland for its more accepting environment, while the siblings continued to take to the air across the Pacific Northwest.

A Providence insurance claims adjuster by day, Haston also played guitar, recorded an album and studied coding. At work, she’d talk about programming fixes in a way that made the idea exciting, even if you didn’t have a head for numbers, recalled her supervisor, Kasey Startin.

“Her genuine excitement made it interesting. We have a whole group of people who are really interested in learning programming now,” said Startin. “She was just herself in the most beautiful way.”

— Zane Sparling; [email protected]; 503-319-7083; @pdxzane

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