By RYAN PFEIL
PHOENIX — A Medford man died early Tuesday morning after his Jeep Wrangler veered off Highway 99 south of Phoenix, struck a utility pole and oak tree, and caught fire.
Matthew Lee Wilson, 24, was dead when Jackson County Fire District No. 5 crews arrived within minutes after receiving an emergency call at 3:04 a.m., fire officials said.
“As we went responding, we were updated by our dispatch saying the vehicle was on fire and the possible occupant (was) still in the vehicle,” said Capt. Tony Halley. “We arrived on scene and it was fully involved at that point.”
Two engines and seven firefighters responded to the crash. Officers from Talent and Phoenix police, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and Oregon State Police also responded.
Crews suppressed the fire within three minutes. It took them about 20 minutes to recover Wilson’s body from the 1995 Wrangler, officials said.
Police said the vehicle was traveling north on Highway 99 near Cabbage Lane when it drifted onto the right shoulder and traveled down a steep gravel embankment into a field below. It then struck the tree and caught fire.
“On the way, he sheared a power pole in half,” said OSP Sgt. Tyler Lee.
The crash’s cause still is under investigation by OSP, police said.
Wilson had worked as a sous chef at Omar’s in Ashland, where he used to live, since 2010, according to his Facebook page. He attended Warwick Valley High School in New York and Southern Main Community College, his page shows.
“Matt, he’s a great guy. We’re really going to miss him,” said Jennifer Sink, a manager at Omar’s.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.