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Woman's fatal head injury inspired legislation. Bill unanimously passed the state Senate on Thursday, May 16.

An Oregon House bill requiring rafting guides and outfitters to make helmets available for customers who plan to navigate treacherous whitewater rapids, unanimously passed the state Senate on Thursday, May 16.

Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) District 49, introduced House Bill 2652 after learning about Sharon Birge, who died in a rafting accident in 2015. The bill passed the House on Thursday, Feb. 21, on a 55-4 vote.

Birge was a 67-year-old Boeing safety manager who suffered a traumatic head injury on a guided rafting trip down the Deschutes River in July 2015. Hours after Birge's injury, it became apparent she needed medical attention.

Birge and her husband, their daughter, and their two grandchildren were on board as well.OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRIS GORSEK - CHRIS GORSEK, Gresham Outlook - News

"Having spoken with Sharon's family, it is apparent that had helmets been available she would have insisted that the whole family wear them." Gorsek said. "They mentioned that Sharon was a safety manager by profession and insisted her family use seat belts soon after they were introduced. She was uniquely insistent at a time when most were apathetic about these kinds of safety measures."

The proposed law is now headed to Gov. Kate Brown's desk for her signature.

Once signed, the bill will have little to no monetary impact on state revenue, according to the Oregon State Legislature's website.

After first introducing the bill in 2017, Gorsek refined the proposed legislation with input from rafting industry professionals.

"I undertook this legislation in honor of Sharon and to keep others in similar circumstances safe," Gorsek added. "I am proud that we were able to get this passed in the House and Senate with such broad bipartisan support." 


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