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Sheriff’s Office says Portland man found dead after riding bike east of Bend

Posted by on June 16th, 2020 at 1:12 pm

(Photo: Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office)

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office says a Portland man was found dead Saturday on a dirt trail north of Highway 20 about 28 miles east of Bend. According to their statement, 36-year-old John Eric Sims was believed to have been riding a mountain bike prior to his death.

Here’s more from DCSO:

“On 6/14/20 at 12:32 p.m., deputies from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a deceased male, who had been located by ATV riders. This location was approximately one mile north of Hwy 20 near milepost 28. Deputies arrived on scene and began conducting a death investigation. Detectives and a Deputy Medical Examiner from the Deschutes County Medical Examiner’s Office arrived on scene to assist in the investigation. The male was later identified as John Eric Sims, age 36, of Portland, Oregon.

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The investigation determined Sims had come to visit Central Oregon and his destination was the Pine Mountain Observatory. Sims drove to an area above the Pine Mountain U.S. Forest Service Campground and parked his 2008 Subaru Forester. It is believed Sims left his vehicle riding his mountain bike and at some point became separated from his bike. Sims appeared to have walked for several miles until he collapsed at the location where he was located by the ATV riders. Based upon the condition of Sims’ body, it appeared he died due to exposure to the elements. It was also determined his body had been at the location for several days. There was no evidence of foul play. Sims’ next of kin has been notified.”

Did any readers know Mr. Sims?

His mountain bike has not been found. If you know anything about this incident, please contact DCSO at 541-693-6911.

UPDATE, 6/17 at 5:05 pm: His bike has been found. Here’s the update sent to me by his sister Ashley Sims:

(Photo: Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office)

After the initial press release on this incident, a citizen contacted the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and reported they had located a red mountain bike that matched the description of Sims’ bike. Detectives responded to an area to the east of the Millican OHV play area, where the bike was located near Trail #20. Family later confirmed the bike belonged to Sims. The bike was located less than one mile west of where Sims’ body was recovered. The bike had sustained some damage, which may have been the result of a bicycle crash.

Today, 21 members of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue unit and two deputies responded to the scene where Sims’ bike was located and conducted an additional search for evidence. The search consisted of grid searching the area between the location of the bike and where Sims’ body was recovered. No additional evidence was located during the search.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Jolene C Cox
Guest
Jolene C Cox

I hope the family is doing ok. This had to be a difficult call to make. Perhaps his bike broke down? There is def more to this story. I just used my garmin inreach tracker for the first time and I am grateful for the rescue button feature.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

We are not doing ok…

Tomas Quinones
Guest

Sorry for your loss, Ashley. I wish we as a community could do more to comfort you and the family.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Thank you, Tomas. If you can locate his bike, that would be a huge help and may give some insight to what could have happened. There are no answers at this point.

Marc Charbonneau
Guest

I’m camping near Pine Mountain this week and will be watching for his bike. I’m really sorry for your family’s loss.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Thank you, Marc. They recovered his bike about 3/4 mile from his body. There was minor damage, but nothing major. They are still looking for his backpack, shirt and shoes.

David Hampsten
Guest

What an odd case. Would there be any way of determining his past movements using the GPS on his cell phone, to find the bike?

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

My brother left his cell phone in his car, so no, that isn’t helping us figure out what happened to him.

Bicycling Al
Guest
Bicycling Al

Strava has a feature called “Beacon” which allows several designated contacts to see your location when you’re biking. However, with such a remote wilderness as the Ochoco Forest, you are unlikely to have cell signal and if you do, you will likely need some secondary power source for your phone to work all day.

It’s best not to venture into places like this alone. You take a bad line through a rut or get thrown off your bike by an unexpected root and you could be stranded by a simple injury. Even a mechanical could turn serious.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

He was not an avid biker. He left everything in his vehicle. We have no idea why/how this turned into such a tragedy.

jeff
Guest
jeff

We are all very sorry for your loss, Ashley, even though many who attend this forum have some very odd ways of showing it as you have read. As a regular rider of that area and most other areas around Bend, it was likely just a minor crash, scare, or mechanical failure of the bike and he opted to try to walk out, potentially getting lost if he didn’t have a road/trail map. He may or may not have been injured, but you’ll know those details soon enough. The weather is Bend has been colder and wetter lately..I’m sure the Deschutes County Sheriff’s office has briefed your family on the details of exposure. For your sake, I hope his bike will be found and lend a few more details in the coming days/weeks to give you family a piece or two of closure.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Thank you, Jeff. Out of the hundreds of comments I have read on the various websites airing my brothers death, hoping someone would give us some insight that makes any sense, yours is one of the few comments that has done that. The detectives have ruled it accidental and will not perform an autopsy or investigation. As we are located in Virginia, unless a local person finds his bike for us, we will be left with no answers to our many questions. John was not an avid biker, but he was very much an outdoors-man who had survivalist training and has lived all over the US, including Oregon, Utah, and Idaho. He knew what the weather conditions could be like. I’ve seen him start a fire with a shoelace and twigs. The police said there was no bruising or anything to indicate foul play or even a bike accident. My family cannot comprehend how he wasn’t able to survive whatever happened.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Please don’t take this wrong, but since you have been speaking publicly, and want to find out ‘what really happened’, I am going to chime in. You said he had survivalist training, but he did some really odd things. There are obvious landmarks, with Pine Mtn standing above everything else, the sun to use as a guide, etc., he ignored really obvious information to survive. If you have any way to have his helmet examined, and also any other signs of head injury. I have crashed hard, hit my head, but had no visible signs and my helmet looked perfect, but I had a concussion. He walked across the only highway within many miles and did not stop and flag down a car (traffic is busy on Hwy 20, a car every minute). Have you talked to his friends about his mental condition prior to the event? What I have seen posted points to either a head injury or mental health issues. Again, I know you want to solve this. Jonathon, feel free to not post this if you feel it is inappropriate.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Hi Steve,

I strongly disagree with your assessment and am wondering if you have any wilderness experience at all.

Getting somewhere in the wilderness is far more than pointing in a direction.

While it’s not clear what happened, the information available so far is not unusual, and it definitely does not point to such a specific cause.

jeff
Guest
jeff

agreed. the roads in that area very much wind and diverge, often away from the immediate direction of travel between the Badlands area and Pine Mtn. You need a map unless you’re very familiar with the trail system. The roads/trails are usually in horrible condition on a good year. It had been raining in the area off and on for days.
a fall and minor head injury are very much possible, leading to impaired decision making. unfortunately, pretty normal wilderness stuff.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I have biked on Pine Mountain myself (and gotten briefly lost, even with a map, and that was on a nice day). The roads on that mountain can indeed be confusing. If you’re out on the Millikan plain towards highway 20, yes you could use the mountain for route finding (and head the opposite direction to reach the highway, if you were in trouble), but not once you’re on the mountain … the terrain isn’t always obvious, the summit isn’t really visible from most of the mountain, and it is very easy to get turned around.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

I won’t go into my 65 years of back packing, weeks solo in the Sierras, mountaineering in the Himalayas and Central America, peak bagging hundreds of peaks throughout the U.S. etc etc., just to say that I have spent more miles out in the wilderness than you could even dream of. I re-read the Sheriff’s report and it did raise a couple of questions. They seemed to be saying that he camped at the campground on top of the ridge right above the observatory. If that is true, the only mountain-biking would be on the ridge or dropping down either side. Then it is really easy to get disoriented, there are many drainages. I have gotten separated from friends in that very area, and just orienteered and compassed myself out of trouble. The Sheriff also said he got separated from his bike and walked for hours. How do they know when he lost his bike? It is conceivable that his bike is very close to the location that he was found; that would explain his crossing Hwy 20 and not seeking help. Because he was not in trouble until after he crossed the highway.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

One other thing that might explain his crossing Hwy 20 without seeking help was that he simply rode across to explore the area (i.e. it was still part of his ride), and he didn’t get lost until much later. Not sure why you’re convinced he walked across it.

Also unclear why there would be reason to question mental state at this point. It’s easy to get lost/disoriented even when you feel fine because all kinds of things block your view of reference points and make it difficult to maintain a bearing.

Presumably, that’s why you carry a compass — which you actually needed in an area you know. If he was bonking, dehydrated, chilled, etc — all of which are common and any of which can mess you up — he’d have a very difficult time getting where he needed to be, especially without the benefit of local knowledge and a compass.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

I want to apologize, sort of, for my comments. I was commenting, based on the Sheriff’s report. His bike has been found, near the Millican OHV area. It is close to where his body was found. So, as I posited before, he did not walk a long distance after crashing his bike. That makes a lot more sense than the original report that he walked for miles after crashing. I guess I should have been more skeptical about the police report. As a former private investigator, it is hard for me to see how they reached the conclusions that they did, but I have seen it in many cases, especially when they don’t have knowledge of certain activities, e.g. mountain biking. I hope I did not cause the family any undo pain, but it is good that a more logical reason for his fate is available. Crash, damage bike, start walking, get lost…we have all been there.

jeff
Guest
jeff

but here you are, bragging about you in front of a grieving family member to provide some odd form of superiority to anyone who cares….which is, as you likely fail to realize in the moment, no one.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Thank you again Jeff. His bike was located not far from his body, but we are now learning that he was found without his backpack, shirt or shoes. Given the location of his bike and his body, it is believed that he was walking in the wrong direction from his vehicle. I can believe that he got lost and turned around, but I just can’t believe that he let the situation get so bad as to lose his life. He would have been prepared, at least with a lighter and water in his backpack. It didn’t have to end like this.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Hypothermia can severely impair both perceptions and judgment rendering a strong and knowledgeable person helpless. Someone who’s so weak they can barely move can still think they’re fine so they don’t do what they need to do.

I say this as someone who once collapsed from hypothermia. I never realized I was in trouble and wouldn’t have made it home if someone hadn’t come looking for me.

If it’s any consolation, I doubt he suffered or felt traumatized.

Dimitrios
Guest
Dimitrios

“He walked across the only highway within many miles and did not stop and flag down a car”

We don’t know this. He may have crossed Hwy 20 on his bike ride and then separated from his bike. He used Pine Mtn and the sun as reference points to get back to Hwy 20, but never made it. Equally plausible. Who knows.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

You do raise one possible explanation. He was not on a trail, but was on the road heaing north, and crossed Hwy 20 and then crashed. That is possible. Going cross country on a bike for many hours, for a novice cyclist, in the loose terrain out there, is almost impossible, but he could have been on the road.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Hi Ashely,

I’m very sorry to hear about your brother — I can’t imagine what you must be going through.

With no real details, people can only speculate as to what happened. However, as a capable outdoorsman who apparently walked some distance before collapsing, it seems most likely that he experienced a mechanical difficulty with his bike that rendered it unrideable — there are many potential causes.

If he had ridden far, it would be tempting to take shortcuts rather than retrace his path — most people wouldn’t leave their bike behind unless they felt they had to.

It’s incredibly easy to get lost even in wilderness areas you know well. When you do know exactly where you want to go, it’s often hard to get there because a wide variety of features (which can extend for miles) block your intended course of travel and you can get turned around navigating them. Even with GPS, maps, and compass, routefinding in wilderness is far more difficult than most people who don’t explore these areas imagine. Without these tools, it’s much worse.

If he was a minimalist and didn’t have that much in food/water/clothing because he didn’t expect to be out that long, it would be easy to be in a situation where an experienced, uninjured, strong, and capable person could find themselves weak from dehydration, exhaustion, and lack of food with their head in a fog.

I hope you’re able to find the answers you need. Terrible things sometimes happen to very good people who made no real mistakes. All it takes is a little bad luck at the wrong time.

Momo
Guest
Momo

I’ve been thinking about getting one of those emergency beacons that doesn’t rely on a cell phone signal, and there have been so many stories like this lately that I think I’ll be getting one the next time I go anywhere remote. So scary how easy it can be to get lost and no way to get in contact with anyone.

Todd Boulanger
Guest

As it makes little on-going financial sense to own a GPS satellite beacon for 340 days of the year (except for 1 trip a year) – I wish there was a local group…like the former CycleWild…that would own and share such devices…selling “shares” in a “GPS condo”.

Lance
Guest
Lance

OR rei or similar to rent one as needed.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Garmin’s InReach device has a monthly “Freedom” plan that gives 30 days of use for as little as $14.95. So you could have the SOS security just for summer wilderness adventures.

https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/592606

Tomas Quinones
Guest

Worth. Every. Penny.

Stay safe out there.

Check their respective sites, they often have sales and rebates where the device itself is about 30% off but you will still have to pay a yearly fee.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

The fee is only for satellite communicators. A PLB requires no service contract and the radio signal can work in situations where satellite can’t — but you also can’t send outgoing messages. You just detonate it and hope for help. I’ve carried a PLB for years.

It’s a mistake to think that beacons and satellite communicators make you safe. Rather, think of them as a Hail Mary when all other options have failed. People have this imagery of the helicopters flying in when they hit the emergency button, but that’s not how things work.

Rescuers only come if it’s safe for them and even in a best case scenario, it’s going to take a long time — often days. And if it’s difficult for a properly equipped athletic person laden as lightly as possible to get out there, it’s even harder for rescuers laden down with gear who have to haul an injured/sick person out.

A lot can go wrong in wilderness areas and common issues that would be no big deal elsewhere can be life threatening. A beacon or satellite communicator is a good idea, but if you have one, you still need to prepare the same as if you didn’t.

There’s no telling exactly what happened in this tragic incident — whatever it was will be no consolation to his family.

Scott
Guest
Scott

The Garmin InReach’s are worth every penny. The subscription cost is small compared to the potential benefit and security it provides. I haven’t had to call for help, but I can update my wife and that is invaluable.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

Just to fill in some local knowledge. It would be many hours walking north to get to Highway 20, which is the only landmark out there. We’re talking, nothing else around. And then, to walk another mile north. That is desolate country. I just can’t imagine walking past the highway. This time of year, there is a lot of traffic, though, a car every minute during the day, and every five minutes at night. and, it is not really mountain-biking country. Steep, loose unrideable slopes up to the Observatory, with easy, well marked dirt roads going up there. I hope we learn what happened.

Caitlin D
Guest
Caitlin D

This is so sad. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Cyclekrieg
Subscriber
Cyclekrieg

My heart goes out to the family.

On an adjacent note, this is why you should always plan when “out in the country”. The best thing a person to carry is small EDC (every day carry) kit. A space blanket, which is the size of a wallet folded up, can be difference between an uncomfortable night and being dead.

Becky Jo (Columnist)
Member

Ugh. Only 36. Ashley, I’m so sorry. Immediate family loss really is… yeah. Very hard. I’m sorry. I’m from the west side of the mountain, Bend is on the east side. West side is temperate rainforest region, east is high desert. I’ve camped this time of year on the east side, and yeah, the temp drops at night are serious. I’m sure you’ve been asked, but did he register his bike? In the small chance it pops up on a theft bust, maybe you’d be notified then? Any evidence on it would be likely moot, but maybe there’d be something. Maybe you can get a hold of PDX bike registry, search for his name & change contact info to you? I have no idea, but any inch forward, right? All the love to you.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Thank you, Becky. I appreciate the thought and the suggestion. I’m pretty sure the bike he had with him was just something used he got to take on his latest adventure. I highly doubt he had registered it anywhere but I will certainly do some digging on that.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Years ago I was a member of Deschutes County Search and Rescue. You’d be astounded at the fixes people get themselves into. And most were visitors from the Willamette Valley.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The terrain, lack of water, and extreme swings in temperature definitely catch be by surprise. I’m a valley native who recreates a lot in Central Oregon, and I’ve learned over the years that you have to prepare in different ways, at least compared to the valley. Many venturing over the passes are tricked by the dry/warm daytime weather, and good cell coverage in populated areas. Venturing just a few miles off of the major highways leads you into potentially deadly landscapes with no cell coverage.

David Hampsten
Guest

The bike looks like a 2000 Raleigh M30 22″, $270 new. The front needs to be rotated counter-clockwise 360 degrees and the front brake reattached. Mr. Sims must have been quite tall with about a 34″ inseam. https://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/BikeSpecs.aspx?year=2000&brand=Raleigh%20&model=M30

Bicycling Al
Guest
Bicycling Al

Who found the bike? Where was it in relation to Mr. Sims? How did you learn about this?

David Hampsten
Guest

Reread the article. Jonathan added an update with a picture of the recovered bike and some details.

Bicycling Al
Guest
Bicycling Al

Sorry, I used the “comments” link when returning to the article and didn’t see the update. Thanks.

X
Guest
X

Ashley,
Thank you for speaking for your brother when we can’t talk to him. I believe that any person who comments here would have given John all the help they could if they had met him in the wild.

My outdoor skills are modest, I’ve been lost on ground I thought I knew. A person I know walked half a mile from camp and never saw their gear again. It was not their first trip by any means.

We go out there looking for the same things your brother wanted.

Peace.

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Thank you for letting me speak on his behalf. I have seen some pretty insensitive and hurtful comments about him, his state of mind, and his experience level, but we have also received many condolences and thoughtful insight to what could have led to such a tragedy. I know that 99% of people in the world are genuinely good and certainly would have helped him if given the opportunity.

To settle the debate, yes, he was a troubled soul, but he would never leave our mom like this intentionally. He wasn’t always the best brother or friend (who is?), but he was a very loving son and a really great uncle. He wanted to make amends for the pain some of his prior poor choices caused to others, at the same time seeking clarity and peace for the pain and injustices that others brought upon him.

He still loved life and always set out to find new adventures. He was finally happy out in Oregon where he had lived for the past year. He found his happy place for the first time in a very long time. I will never wrap my head around this, but I do take comfort in knowing that the last year of his life was a lot better than the majority of years leading up to it. He found the peace he spent his lifetime searching for and died under the stars that he always escaped gazing upon. He is forever loved and will be greatly missed by many.

Setofskills
Guest
Setofskills

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Setofskills
Guest
Setofskills

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X
Guest
X

Skills not acquired in sensitivity training I guess. A man died in Oregon. A man with a similar name was charged in Virginia but we don’t know what came of it. Let it lay. People who aren’t abusive predators are pretty much considered to be absolved by death.

Ashley Sims
Guest
Ashley Sims

Yes, that was him. The meth head who got the shitake beat out of him for trying to rob my brother never showed back up after he left the hospital willing. The charges were dropped and never even went to court, but of course the news media didn’t air that for us. How does this have anything to do with his death in Oregon while mountain biking?

Setofskills
Guest
Setofskills

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Setofskills
Guest
Setofskills

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Ashley Sims
Guest
Ashley Sims

There is a special place in hell for people like you…