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Wilsonville man gets three-year prison term in crash that injured West Linn teens


Tyler Joos, 20, is sentenced to prison for running down three Rosemont Ridge Middle School students

A Wilsonville man has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of third-degree assault in connection with a crash last year in which he drove onto a sidewalk near Memorial Park and struck three West Linn teenagers.

Tyler Joos, 20, also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of intoxicants in the Aug. 7, 2013, crash, which left two of the 13-year-old victims badly injured when he lost control of his Jeep Cherokee after inhaling a “basketball-sized” balloon filled with nitrous oxide, a mild anesthetic commonly known as “laughing gas.”

Under terms of the plea deal accepted by Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Kathie Steele, Joos was given two 36-month prison terms for each of the two counts of third-degree assault, a class C felony. The sentences will be served concurrently, however, instead of consecutively, meaning he will be eligible for release in May 2017 at the very latest. He will be on probation for 60 months after being released from custody and will be required to undergo alcohol and drug rehabilitation while in prison.

Victims speak

Each victim spoke directly to Joos during his May 23 sentencing hearing in Clackamas County Circuit Court. They all expressed hope that Joos would learn from the tragedy.

One victim talked about having surgery to relieve cranial pressure resulting from her head injuries. She said her life is “forever changed” by the incident and added that returning to school proved far more difficult than expected.

“Going back to school was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” the victim said, adding she was called names by other students and stared at, even by teachers who were unaware of her condition.

“I have a hard time reading anybody’s handwriting,” she said. “And I still have no feeling in my right foot, which makes playing soccer, the only sport I play, extremely difficult.”

Joos stood silently, often staring at the floor. He appeared shaken throughout the 30-minute hearing, and had trouble speaking when it came time to give his own statement to the court, which he had requested.

“I want to apologize to the girls and their families as well,” Joos said, stopping for a moment to compose himself. “I know nothing I can say can change the past or the pain and suffering my actions have caused. I’d do anything to have that day back. I wish I could have it all over again so the girls and their families didn’t have to go through this.”

Nitrous oxide involved

Initially, Joos was not arrested following the crash at the corner of Southwest Wilsonville Road and Memorial Drive in Wilsonville. The girls were headed to a nearby pet store when Joos’ westbound vehicle veered off the roadway and across the sidewalk. Two of the girls were “run over,” said Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Bill Golden, leaving them with traumatic brain injury and other serious injuries.

One of the girls was taken by air ambulance and one by ground ambulance to Oregon Health and Science University Hospital. Months of follow-up treatment and physical therapy came afterward. The victims on Friday said they likely will never completely recover from the incident, while Golden told the court the incident was the culmination of lifestyle choices made by Joos over the period of several years.

“The three girls had intended to visit with animals that day,” Golden said. “That’s what they wanted to do.”

Only fortune, he continued, prevented one or more of them from being killed.

“It’s lucky in such a tragedy that they were right next to a police station where they could respond quickly,” Golden said.

Joos remained on-scene at the time of the crash and cooperated with investigators, Golden said, even going so far as to point out a large, 20-pound pressurized bottle of nitrous oxide in the back of his jeep.

Because the short-acting gas disappears from the bloodstream in a matter of minutes, field sobriety tests at the scene of the crash did not turn up signs of intoxication. However, a follow-up blood test taken within an hour of the crash revealed traces of nitrous oxide in Joos’ blood. This ultimately gave investigators enough to work with and Joos was arrested and charged last October.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Criminal Reconstruction and Forensic Team assisted Wilsonville police in the investigation, which involved dozens of witness interviews and hours of surveillance footage from nearby businesses.

The final victim perhaps summed up the feelings of her friends and family when she spoke at the hearing.

“Tyler, I want you to know I’m not angry,” she said. “Just very disappointed. None of us will ever forget this experience … my life will never be the same. I will never have a normal life again.”