OSP still seeking clues in death of senator's wife

Oregon State Police are still investigating after Leta Baertschiger, wife of local state Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr., was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer rig on Interstate 5 Saturday night.

OSP said Leta Baertschiger, 54, was hit by the truck while walking in the southbound right lane of travel near the freeway interchange on the north end of town at about Milepost 58. The emergency call reporting the incident was made at 7:57 p.m.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. Traffic on the freeway was tied up for hours while state troopers investigated.

State Rep. Carl Wilson, a fellow Grants Pass Republican, said he reached out to the senator as soon as he learned the news Sunday morning.

"We're just really grieving with Herman right now and trying to make sense of this," he said, adding, "Just a terrible thing and an unexpected thing."

A post on the Salem Statesman Journal website quotes Baertschiger, who said of his late wife, "If you look up the word wife, mother, grandmother, you'll find her name."

In what the Statesman Journal described as a brief interview, Baertschiger also said, "She was the only partner I've ever had."

According to OSP, Francisco Diaz of Marysville, California, was driving the semi-truck and was unable to avoid Baertschiger. Diaz was not injured, and cooperated with investigators.

OSP reported no information regarding what Baertschiger was doing on the freeway.

Herman and Leta Baertschiger have lived on Hunt Lane near Fort Vannoy Elementary School west of Grants Pass for many years, and raised two sons there.

Herman Baertschiger has operated a firefighting/forestry company, and done ranching, farming, contracting and real estate.

Baertschiger was elected to the Oregon Legislature in 2012, and is serving in his third full legislative session. His Senate District 2 includes Josephine and northern Jackson counties and the towns of Grants Pass, Central Point, Rogue River, Eagle Point, White City, Gold Hill and Cave Junction.

Leta Baertschiger had worked at Fort Vannoy and Fruitdale elementary schools as an assistant.

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