Cottage Grove, Public Safety & Health

Cottage Grove combat vet seriously injured in Memorial Day crash

Oregon State Police say a drunk driving accident sent two people to the Sacred Heart Medical Center RiverBend on Monday, May 26 on Highway 58 near mile marker 3, slowing traffic for several hours, from as far away as the Willamette Pass.


PLEASANT HILL — A Cottage Grove combat veteran suffered major injuries on Memorial Day after a drunk driver slammed into his silver Jeep Patriot on Highway 58 near Cloverdale Road, sending both parties to the hospital. 

Brian Nicoson, 46, of Cottage Grove, was on his way back home from helping his parents with yard work in Pleasant Hill just after noon on Monday, May 25. As he traveled down Highway 58, he and his wife, Lacey, were chatting over the hands-free car speakers and discussing what he was going to pick up for lunch. 

Subway sandwiches, they decided.

He looked in his rearview window and noticed a woman coming in hot from behind him on Highway 58. He said he was going about 55 miles per hour, and the woman behind him must have been going 100. He said he could see both of her hands gripped on the steering wheel and her green Honda CRV “aiming right at me.” 

Before he realized she was not going to change lanes, he said it was too late, and for a moment he said he was certain he was going to die. 

He knows a thing or two about close calls. 

Nicoson was a sniper team leader with the 2-162 Infantry Battalion, a regiment of the Oregon Army National Guard with headquarters in Springfield. He said he has been deployed three times, in 2003, ’05 and again in ’08. 

“I’ve been blown up a couple of times, but have never broken a bone,” he said. 

Pamela Thompson, 65, of Klamath Falls, was traveling westbound when she struck the back of Nicoson’s vehicle “at a high rate of speed,” according to Oregon State Police trooper Joseph Zimmerman. 

Nicoson didn’t have a chance to tell his wife he was in an accident, but she heard the calamity over the speakers in real-time, Nicoson said. She immediately called for help.

“I was pretty cognizant about everything,” he said. Nicoson said his Jeep launched through a fence, through a tree and landed about 70 feet off the highway in a field. 

After the Jeep landed, “I just reached over, unlatched the door, took a few steps and sat down about 10 feet away from the car and waited for help,” he said. “I took a look down at my arm, and it felt weird … it was obvious my left shoulder was out of its socket, and I was having a hard time breathing.”

Shortly before medics arrived on scene, an unknown veteran stopped to assess the situation, for which Nicoson is grateful, he said. 

Nicoson was treated for a dislocated left shoulder, broken clavicle, six broken ribs, a chipped shoulder bone and a bruised and punctured lung at Sacred Heart Medical Center RiverBend in Springfield. He said Wednesday afternoon that he was released from the hospital.

A medical blood draw indicated that Thompson’s blood alcohol content was 0.30%, more than three times the legal limit, and already had a misdemeanor suspended license for DUII, according to Oregon State Police. Thompson was cited for assault II; DUII, a felony; reckless driving; and driving while suspended, a misdemeanor.

It could have been a lot worse, and for that he thanks his lucky stars and stripes. 

“That Jeep, my dad’s Jeep was left to me in his will; he was a combat veteran in the Vietnam War,” Nicoson said. His father, Van Gawith, passed away in July 2019.

“My dead dad’s Jeep gets demolished on Memorial Day; I am pretty sure I had a copilot with me that day,” he said. 

OSP was assisted by Pleasant Hill Fire Department, Goshen Fire Department and ODOT.

Brian Nicoson’s silver Jeep Patriot



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