Steamboat Springs Joe Bell, 48, the cross-country trekker from Oregon who came through Steamboat Springs in early August on his mission to increase public understanding of the relationship between bullying and teen suicide, was struck and killed by a semitrailer late Wednesday afternoon while walking along U.S. Highway 40 in Kit Carson County.
Bell, who left Steamboat pushing his belongings in a cart Aug. 2, was struck by the truck while walking along the shoulder of the road, according to the Colorado State Patrol. His death first was reported by a Facebook post that read, “He will continue his journey now with Jadin. Please keep the family in your prayers and thoughts” and subsequently confirmed by newspapers near his home of La Grande in Eastern Oregon.
Jadin Bell, Joe’s 15-year-old son, hanged himself Jan. 19 after enduring weeks of bullying at his high school.
Jadin was openly gay but not understood by many of his classmates in school. His father shed quiet tears during an interview in Steamboat.
“My son didn’t choose to be gay,” Joe Bell said. “My son was different at a very young age. He told his family he was gay because he knew they would accept him. I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek every day. I was proud of him.”
While in Steamboat, he spoke to several youth groups including Sk8 Church, Boys and Girls Club and the It Takes Courage anti-bullying group. He had given presentations in Boise, Idaho, and Salt Lake City on his way to Colorado and was scheduled to speak in the eastern plains community of Hugo at the time of his death.
Camille DiTrani, who hosted Bell during his visit to Steamboat, said she was blown away by the news of his death.
His story is so tragic," DiTrani said. "He really touched me and my husband. It's so sad."
Bell said he learned after his son’s death that some of his classmates cussed at him when they passed him on the street and he had been harassed on the Internet. Joe Bell set out to walk from La Grande to New York in an effort to gain something positive from son’s death. The experience of walking long distances across the American West had proven to be a healing one, he said.
The driver of the truck that struck and killed Joe Bell on the side of the highway — Kenneth Raven, 49, of Bryan, Texas — was cited for careless driving resulting in death, according to a news release from the Colorado State Patrol. Troopers think Raven fell asleep at the wheel. He was not injured in the accident.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1
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