ROSEBURG, Ore. – Four years ago, Dawn Hutchison was awakened by a loud pounding on the front door of her Roseburg home.
Her husband, Shane, tried to persuade her to get the door, but Hutchison told him her head hurt.
After answering the summons, he returned to the bedroom and told her their daughter Mandy had been in a car accident. He then rushed to the scene of the accident.
Soon after, several police cars pulled in front of the Hutchisons’ home and a number of police officers converged on the front door. They told Dawn Hutchison she was probably aware of a car accident. Then one of them knelt down in front of her.
“I’m sorry. You’ve lost your daughter,” he said.
Hutchison asked him for a cigarette, even though she hadn’t smoked in years. She remembers looking up at a grandfather clock in her house. The face of the clock and the numbers were huge, consuming her vision. Everything else that happened that night is a blur, said Hutchison, now a Sutherlin resident. It was Sept. 18, 2006 – the night her daughter Mandy Cochran, 18, was killed in a car accident on West Military Avenue.
What happened on that date was every parent’s worst nightmare. Because of it, she made it her mission, along with other relatives and friends of the Roseburg High School graduate, to try to prevent other accidents on the winding road where Mandy Cochran died.
They also want to keep alive the memory of the caring teenager who aspired to be a nurse and who loved the color pink. The family scored a victory in those efforts when the city of Roseburg installed new signs on Military Avenue last month.
“A lot of people don’t go through and fight like this,” said Cochran’s stepfather, Shane Hutchison. “We swore from day one that we wouldn’t give up until something was done.”
The two new signs, purchased by the family, have been placed on either end of the road that winds through trees on the side of Mount Nebo. They’ll replace signs that said “narrow, windy road” with wordless ones bearing squiggly lines as symbols. Underneath the warning, another sign says, “In memory of Mandy Renee Cochran 1988 to 2006.”
The road’s narrowness, combined with its steep drop-offs, make it especially dangerous, said Dawn Hutchison. She hopes the signs will save lives by helping to prevent accidents such as the one that killed her daughter.
Dawn Hutchison admits Cochran and some friends were horsing around and driving too fast on the road on the night of the accident. While no drugs or alcohol were involved, poor judgment led to the teen’s death, her mother said. Cochran, a passenger, was thrown from the car when it went off the road and hit a tree.
Replacing the signs on Military Avenue was necessary, but it wasn’t a high priority, said Rick Castle, engineering technician for the Roseburg Public Works Department. Erecting signs with symbols rather than words is the trend in many cities, he said.
“It’s better to have a symbol because it’s easier to recognize it,” he said.
The city doesn’t usually agree to put up memorial signs such as those with Cochran’s name on them, Castle said. But because Military Avenue is a residential street with a low traffic volume, the city made an exception.
“Maybe it will bring some awareness to someone else who wants to take a drive on that road,” he said. “(The family) went through a lot of effort. I think the biggest thing is they want to build awareness.”
That was exactly the point, said Shane Hutchison.
“If we can help just one kid, then we’ve done our job,” he said.