Police investigating whether cyclist with severe injuries was attacked

Police investigating whether cyclist was attacked

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A bizarre bike crash has left a Portland woman with awful injuries. Now, police are investigating to find out if someone attacked her.

It's a case that has the bike community talking about helmet use, riding alone and trail safety.

Skjelse Rapoch woke up in the hospital last week to find out she had lost nine teeth, a broken jaw, facial and hand fractures, and would be sore from some pretty nasty whiplash.

The Utah native and avid cyclist suffered the injuries while riding alone at dusk on Sept. 13 on the Columbia Slough Trail, near North Vancouver Avenue. She was headed to meet her husband, Jeff, to watch a bike race at Portland International Raceway.

She doesn't remember falling, but just minutes later, friends rode by and found her, and called 911 and Jeff immediately.

"They gave me a call and said get down here really quickly, something bad's happened. Just get here as quickly as you can," Jeff Rapoch recalled.

Skjelse says she woke up in the hospital to doctors resetting the bone in the roof of her mouth.

"I don't remember anything, so it's kind of confusing. It's so disorienting just listening to what everyone else is saying," she said.

After a few days in the hospital, doctors tried to help the couple piece things together.

"They were really confused by her injuries because they're not consistent with standard bike crashing," Rapoch said.

Could someone have attacked her, or hit her with something? Or did she simply take a bad fall? Portland police says it's suspicious, but with no evidence, no witnesses, no suspect description, it's tough. But they are investigating.

Other cyclists and runners say they've become nervous on the Columbia Slough Trail recently with increased tent camping nearby. All Skjelse is focusing on is getting better, and looking at her dented helmet, which saved her life.

"I want to remind everybody to wear theirs because it's going to save your life and you don't think it's going to happen to you," Skjelse said. "I know friends and family that don't wear one. They say, 'I'm a good rider, I'll be okay.' It's not about that. I'm a good rider too. It could happen to anybody, and not just to think you're exempt from wearing a helmet and taking precautions."

The Rapochs say just the oral surgery to replace her teeth will cost around $40,000. So their family has set up a GoFundMe page to accept donations.


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