Local man is killed in Camas traffic collision

Bill Jessett was a longtime resident and volunteer

A local man died at the scene of a two-vehicle traffic collision June 8 in Camas.

At approximately 5:30 p.m., 85-year-old Viola Idell Jessett, with her husband William “Bill” Jessett in the passenger seat, was driving a 1997 Ford Escort eastbound on Northeast Third Avenue. The Jessett’s vehicle was hit by a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer being driven northbound on Northeast Hayes Street by 76-year-old Sol Claypool.

Bill Jessett, 88, of Camas, was non-responsive when emergency personnel arrived at the scene. Although paramedics with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department attempted CPR, he could not be revived and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Claypool was not injured. She remained at the scene and is cooperating with investigators.

Idell Jessett was injured and transported by ambulance to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver. According to hospital officials, she was released on June 10.

The Jessett’s granddaughter, Rose York, said Idell Jessett suffered a broken sternum, fractured ribs, multiple bumps and bruises, a lacerated shoulder and a concussion.

She described her grandma as “one tough cookie.”

“She has been as strong as I’ve always known her to be through all of this tragedy,” York said. “She was up and walking around the next morning. She is now staying with some family for a bit to heal and process everything.”

Bill Jessett had lived in the Camas-Washougal area since the 1950s, and worked at the Camas paper mill for 34 years until his retirement as a water supervisor.

He volunteered with the Inter-Faith Treasure House in Washougal for several decades, and was an organizer of the Clark County-wide Inter-Service Club Walk & Knock food drive.

In 2003, at the age of 75, he was presented with the Washington Food Coalition’s Golden Rule Award, in recognition of his dedication to helping the hungry.

At that time, Jessett was volunteering 56 hours a week as the food administrator for the Treasure House, a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing and emergency assistance to children and their families who are in crisis. He told the Post-Record that he was committed to helping those in need.

“I get the satisfaction of knowing I’m helping people,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there that need food, so I am happy to help with that.”

Longtime Treasure House Executive Director Nancy Wilson remembers Jessett’s unwavering dedication to and positive impact on the community.

“It is very emotional to remember back on all the ways that he has helped and been a part of Treasure House,” she said. “He was the first person to arrive in the morning and the last person to leave at night — all volunteer. Bill was dedicated to Treasure House and helping others. We will miss him.”

Jessett also volunteered for a program called “Cursillo/Walk to Emmaus,” which had him visiting inmates at the state corrections facility in Walla Walla, Washington, as part of a prison ministry. In addition, he was a member of the Kiwanis and the Washougal Lions clubs, serving as president of the latter from 1992 to 1993.

Jessett was the recipient of many awards over the years. He was recognized as the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in 1991, and with Idell was selected in 1996 as Camas Days Royalty. Both awards highlight individuals for their community service.

“My grandpa definitely left pretty big shoes to fill in our community,” York said. “He was such a genuine, caring person.”

Following Wednesday’s car accident, Northeast Third Avenue was closed for approximately three hours. Camas Police Department officers were assisted by the Clark County Traffic Homicide Unit.

On Monday, CPD Officer Debrah Riedl said the investigation is still underway. No determination has been made regarding criminal charges.

Northeast Third Avenue is a four-lane primary arterial road that connects the cities of Camas and Washougal. The speed limit in the area where the collision took place is 25 mph.

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