Family: Man hit and killed by drunk driver was delivering supplies for homeless people
WILSONVILLE, Ore. —
A 56-year-old man was delivering supplies to a group of homeless people when he was hit and killed by a suspected drunk driver Friday night, his family told KATU News.
Christopher Allen Kelleher was driving his 1997 Ford Econoline van with his wife Gina along SR 551 when family say he pulled over to his usual spot on the shoulder, near the I-5 interchange. They regularly help a group of homeless people living nearby.
When Kelleher got out of his car and started walking toward the back of the van, the driver of a Ford F-350 crashed into the car and then into Kelleher, who was standing on the shoulder. Oregon State troopers say the driver of the F-350, 59-year-old Kenneth Lloyd Pepperling, was driving drunk. He is charged with manslaughter and DUII, among several other things. He was also booked for a felony DUII warrant.
Kelleher was pronounced dead at the scene.
"He was a loving father to three beautiful kids, Tony, Nathan, and Amanda. Amanda just gave him his first grandson Cainen. His wife Gina has a brain tumor and he was her sole caretaker," said a family member in a statement.
Speaking to KATU News off camera, family said Kelleher was a military veteran who spent the latter parts of his life trying to help others. While he didn't have much to give, family say he would do anything he could do to help.
There is a memorial made of tree branches currently standing on the side of the road where Kelleher was killed. Family members said it was likely the homeless people that Kelleher was going to help that put it there.
A Clackamas County judge set Pepperling's bail at $850,000 at his first court appearance on Monday afternoon. Pepperling's family told KATU News they are sorry. They said Pepperling is a good man and good father, but he "made a bad choice."
Pepperling has a long history of drunk driving charges. Friday's arrest was his fourth DUII arrest in just the past 10 years.
The crash is also an example of what Oregon officials are trying to prevent since the new version of the Move Over Law took effect Jan. 1, just five days before this crash.
"That's exactly what we're trying to prevent," said Sgt. Brian Jensen, a spokesperson for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. "The new law encompasses more vehicles on the side of the road. Before it was just emergency vehicles, then it was emergency vehicles and tow trucks, now it's anybody on the side of the road that is showing signs of distress."
Oregon State Police say it is unclear if Kelleher activated the hazard lights on his vehicle. They say he was approximately six feet onto the shoulder.
Jensen says it should be common sense for drivers to try to move over if someone is on the shoulder. He says it makes it safer for the driver and for the person who pulled over.
"The law states to move over or slow down. We would encourage you to move over if you can safely do so and give these people on the side of the road as much room as possible to deal with whatever they are dealing with," Jensen said.