Second Keizer resident dies in aftermath of Jan. 22 crash

A memorial began to form at the end of Moira Hughes and George Heitz’s driveway on Jan. 25 (Joey Cappelletti/Keizertimes)

George Heitz of Keizer, who was in bed on the morning of Jan. 22 when a truck drove through his bedroom wall, passed away Friday evening after six days in the hospital.

Keizer police reports said that the truck’s driver had a blood alcohol content of .24, three times the legal limit. Moira Hughes, Heitz’s wife, was pronounced dead at the scene.

An initial police press release on Jan. 22 had said that the 63-year-old Heitz had been “transported to the Salem Hospital Emergency Department with serious injuries” but was in stable condition.

It is unclear at this point what injuries caused Heitz’s death. According to a Keizer police officer’s statement, Heitz had been paralyzed from the waist down from injuries sustained from the crash.

Hughes, who was 67 years old when she passed, worked as a nursing instructor at Chemeketa Community College until she retired in 2019. Dozens of former students expressed sorrow at the news of Hughes’ passing in a Chemeketa Nursing Graduates Facebook page on Jan. 22.

Nicole Garcia, a former student of Hughes, said Hughes had been one of the first teachers she had in the Chemeketa Nursing program.

“The very first day of my first year in the program we had an orientation. In walk all the scary professors and you’re kind of feeling them out, seeing which one is the most intimidating,” Garcia said. “In walks Moira with one of her therapy dogs. And I immediately was like, there’s something about somebody who would bring a therapy dog to work for their nursing school students. It kind of showed the empathy that was there.”

Garcia said that Hughes would often bring her therapy dogs to class and it made an impact on her. Garcia now works with foster kids in the Oregon Department of Human Services and for years has wanted to get a therapy dog for her work. One week before Hughes passed, Garcia adopted a puppy to begin training as a therapy dog. 

“I had been actually working on an email to Moira with a bunch of questions and to let her know, that she was the inspiration for it. When I heard about her death, it was just one of those things where you always think you’re gonna have time to say something to somebody. And I never was able to do that. But she’s left a legacy for many reasons,” Garcia said. 

Following Heitz’s death on Jan. 29, Keizer police said that Andrew Modine, the alleged drunken driver, will be charged with an additional count of manslaughter in the first degree.

According to a Keizer police officer’s probable cause statement, Modine was driving his Gray Dodge pick-up truck on the morning of Jan. 22 when he struck a power pole and swerved the side of a home at 5695 Trail Avenue in Keizer. A neighbor, according to the officer’s statement, said that she believed Heitz and Hughes were inside the room the vehicle had driven into. 

The officer’s statement said, “It was discovered Mr. Heitz was on a bed in the room, trapped under the vehicle.”

A blood draw done at Salem Hospital following the crash showed that Modine had a 0.24 blood alcohol level, three times the legal limit, according to the officer’s statement.

Modine has now been charged with two counts of first-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, reckless driving, driving under the influence of intoxicants, driving while criminally suspended, second-degree criminal mischief and a probation violation. 

Modine has lodged at Marion County Correctional Facility and was denied bail on Jan. 24. He was set to have an arraignment hearing on Jan. 31 but after Heitz’s death and the additional charge, it was rescheduled to Feb. 2.

This article was originally published in the Keizertimes and is reprinted with permission. Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.

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