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Pre's Tragic Death

The Night

It was May 1975, and 24-year-old Steve Prefontaine was leaving a party. He had drunk a couple of beers, but no one at the party thought he was unable to drive. Pre hopped into his 1973 MGB and began the drive home. While driving on Skyline Boulevard, a road very familiar to him, something happened to Steve. Something that caused Pre, as he approached the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and Birch Lane, to turn his car drastically to the right, go over the curb, and hit a wall of rock. His car flipped over and Pre, not wearing his seat belt, was trapped underneath. It was late night when Bill Alvarado heard the noises of a car accident outside. According to an article printed in The Register Guard in 1985, Bill thought someone had hit the stop sign. He went out to check what happened. Bill got in his car and attempted to chase a another speeding MGB. Returning home, he came upon another MGB. It was flipped over. Bill stopped his car and got out. He yelled out to his wife to get help because someone was hurt. He tried to get the car off Pre but couldn’t and Bill said that he was still breathing when he got there. After Bill Alvarado talked to the police, they decided to find the man in the other car. And they did. Turns out that the driver of the other MGB was a 20-year-old male who had found Pre earlier that night. After seeing the accident, he quickly drove to his house to get his father, a doctor.

The Blood Test

A sample of blood from Pre's body was taken the morning after the accident by the mortician. It showed Pre's blood-alcohol rate at .16 percent, .6 higher than Oregon's legal blood alcohol limit. As a result, the cause of the accident was determined to be alcohol-related. Controversy surrounds the blood test report, however. Usually, in an alcohol-related fatality, the medical examiner tests the blood-alcohol level. In Pre's case, the mortician did it. In Tom Jordan's book, Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine, Jordan reports that the medical examiner, Dr. Ed Wilson, described the testing procedure done on Pre's blood as "not standard".


Today, 25 years after the tragic death of Steve Prefontaine, a rock stands in the place of Pre's accident. The memorial has become a famous landmark, visited by Pre fans from all over the world. In February of 1999, friends of Pre donated money to build a memorial park near the accident site to permanently mark the site for generations to come.