NIGHT OF PRE'S DEATH CHANGED ONE MAN'S PERSPECTIVE.
EDITOR'S NOTE: "Where Are They Now?' is a Monday column that updates readers on local newsmakers from the past.
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THEN: William Alvarado, 38 at the time, was the first one at the scene of the accident that killed distance-running great Steve Prefontaine, 32 years ago this Wednesday.
Prefontaine's 1973 MGB had pinned him to the pavement. "I hate to say it, but I couldn't do anything," Alvarado told The Register-Guard in 1975. "I couldn't lift the car."
NOW: Alvarado, struggling with diabetes, died in October in Oakridge at age 70. And died convinced that Pre had died not because he'd been drinking, which nobody disputes, but because another car forced his car into a rock embankment. "He was convinced of it," says the youngest of Alvarado's three sons, Jeff, now 46, then a 14-year-old Roosevelt Middle School student.
The accident took place about 12:30 a.m. on May 30 on Hendricks Hill, only hours after Prefontaine had run the second-fastest 5,000-meter race in American history.
The Alvarados lived in a house on Skyline Boulevard, just west of where Pre died. William Alvarado told The Register-Guard he heard a screech of brakes, then a "thunk." He raced outside, heard a car going up Skyline beyond his house, and gave chase in his own car, without seeing the vehicle. He circled around, then came upon the accident.
His father died, Jeff says, believing that someone in a car turning right from Birch Lane onto Skyline swung wide. "Pre saw the guy's headlights in his lane, swerved left to miss him and hit the rock embankment."
At the time, William Alvarado worked in advertising sales for The Register-Guard. Jeff wonders if Pre's death was something of "an epiphany" for him about life being short. He'd always wanted to run his own restaurant, and soon after the accident quit his job and opened a restaurant on Willamette Street called the Quarter Deck.
He later divorced and moved to Mexico. He bought, remodeled and reopened a resort hotel. And remarried. He moved back to Oregon about four years ago, said Jeff, settling in Oakridge. He died Oct. 18, 2006.
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|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||May 28, 2007|
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