Good Samaritan, woman killed in crash on State Route 18


by OWEN LEI / KING 5 News & KING 5 News staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @michaelkingtv

Posted on July 7, 2011 at 5:53 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 7 at 10:33 PM

NORTH BEND, Wash. -- Family and friends weren't surprised to hear Ronald Reinhardt stopped in the middle of the night to help a couple having truck trouble.

They just can't believe that is how he and another woman died.

"[All his life] he made it a point to help people out," said Erica Van Wagoner, his oldest daughter. "I said 'Dad, you always stop and help people, we have a life too. Why do you do it?' He said, 'Because if you guys are ever stranded and ever need help I want somebody to do that for you."

The Washington State Patrol said the crash happened just before midnight Wednesday at milepost 24 on westbound Highway 18. 

Troopers said a pickup truck broke down on the shoulder. Donnie Hubbard stayed with the truck while his girlfriend, Cheryl Bach, 47, went for help. She managed to flag down Reinhardt, 65, who was driving a black Subaru, said investigators.

"He had been spending so much time with his younger daughter in the hospital [for an unrelated ailment] on a daily basis... when he didn't show up last night, it was normal for me," said Randy Fleming, Reinhardt's roommate and close friend.

Reinhardt, a North Bend resident, agreed to help and was driving her back to the truck when he made a U-turn on the highway and was hit by a semi-truck.

The semi driver was not hurt, investigators said, but both Reinhardt and Bach were killed.

"This area has poor visibility, low lighting, long stretch of roadway. (It's) unknown if there was a distraction, what caused him to move in front of the semi truck," said Trooper Julie Startup.

Hubbard, who was waiting for help at the pickup truck, saw the entire collision.

"Tragedy for him, to not only be involved in it and to be waiting for help, but to know someone involved is terrible," said Startup.

Reinhardt died instantly. Hubbard's girlfriend, Cheryl Bach, a 47-year-old woman from Enumclaw, was rushed to the hospital, but died a short time later.

Friends said Reinhardt was a Vietnam veteran that had moved to western Washington after he retired in order to be closer to his grandchildren.

Other than his penchant for helping stranded travelers, Reinhardt also volunteered at the North Bend Community Church Food Bank and would carve rocking-horse-like toys for local children, said Fleming.

"Most of his volunteering and effort was, you know, straight from the heart." Fleming said, "Straight from the heart and the soul and not from the pocketbook."