Local artist hospitalized after motorcycle accident

A well-known local artist is in serious condition after getting run over by a van Monday evening near Waterfront Park.

Hood River resident Kathryn Watne, 56, was riding her motorcycle on Portway Avenue when she turned into a gravel lot and was run over by a reversing van. According to Hood River Police Sergeant Stan Baker, who was the responding officer, the driver of the van, Gina LeFranc, 48, of Milwaukie, Ore., was backing out of a parking space when her vehicle “violently accelerated and stayed accelerated for approximately 50 feet before striking Watne."

The impact pushed Watne under a parked Subaru, which was then struck by LeFranc’s vehicle, which also ran into a Mercedes before finally coming to a stop. The bike was found underneath the van.

Baker reported the owner of the Subaru and other bystanders were able to help move the vehicle off Watne. After Hood River EMS arrived at the scene, they arranged for a LifeFlight transport to Legacy Emanuel. No citations were issued to the driver of the van.

As of Friday morning, Watne was in the neurotrauma intensive care unit of Legacy Emanuel and listed in serious condition. She was reported to be wearing a helmet as well as other safety gear when she was hit.

A close friend of Watne’s, Mark Nilsson, who is also a Hood River artist, said Watne was initially listed in critical condition and has had to undergo multiple surgeries to repair broken bones and internal organs, but has reportedly been responsive.

“She’s strong Nordic stock,” Nilsson said. “She’ll get through this.”

Nilsson’s optimism stems from the fact that this isn’t the first time Watne has had to battle serious health issues. Nilsson said Watne is a recent survivor of breast cancer, which he said she beat about a year ago. Many in Hood River have likely seen Watne without knowing it, as she prominently featured on a billboard for Celilo Cancer Center along 12th Street on the Heights.

“She’s quite amazing,” Nilsson said of Watne’s battle with the disease. “I never heard her complain once.”

“She’s always happy,” he added. “She has a heart of gold.”

Nilsson described Watne as a gifted enamelist and jewelry artist whose work has been featured in many local art shows, including the Gorge Artists Open Studio Tour. Originally from Seattle, Watne has lived in Hood River for almost 20 years and has made many friends both inside and outside the artist community, many of whom are helping out her and her husband, Stewart, in their time of need.

Shelley Toon Hight, another Hood River artist who’s friends with Watne, said friends created a Google calendar and have signed up for shifts to do chores around the Watne house while Kathy is in the hospital.

“A lot of friends have rallied around them to feed her kitties and water her garden — as you would expect in Hood River,” Toon Hight said.

Nilsson was happy about how many people have pitched in to help and happier still that Kathy has a devoted husband.

“He was beside her through the whole cancer treatment,” he said of Stewart, “and he’ll be beside her through this.”

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