LINCOLN CITY, Ore – A man attempting to dribble a soccer ball from Seattle to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup was hit by a pickup truck and killed as he walked through Lincoln City on Tuesday.
Richard Swanson, 42, was walking on the shoulder of Hwy 101 around 10 a.m. when he was hit from behind by a Nissan pickup truck, according to Lincoln City police spokesman Lt. Jerry Palmer.
Medics took Swanson to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Swanson set off from Seattle on May 1 with the goal of dribbling a soccer ball all the way to Sao Paulo, Brazil. He was documenting his progress on his website and Facebook page.
"I will spend over a year traveling through North America, Central America, and South America before arriving in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup," Swanson wrote on his website. "It will be a trip of a lifetime where I will push myself further than I ever thought possible."
Swanson planned to visit eleven foreign countries – Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia then end in Brazil.
He was dribbling a "One World Futbol" along the way. That is a special ball designed to be used in any conditions around the world. When you buy one of the balls, the company gives a second ball to a child in a disadvantaged community somewhere in the world.
"We are deeply saddened to learn about Richard's death," Lisa Tarver, chief operating officer of One World Futbol Project, said in a statement. "He was a very inspiring man who in a very short time walked his way into many lives. Our thoughts are with his family."
Palmer said there was no indication that Swanson was dribbling the ball when he was hit.
On Tuesday afternoon a message announcing Swanson’s death showed up on his Facebook page.
"His team, family, friends and loved ones will miss him and love him dearly," the post said. "You made it to Brazil in our hearts, Richard."
Kristi Schwesinger, a Seattle interior designer and close friend of Swanson's, said he had been a private investigator for many years, and switched to a new career as a graphic designer, but was laid off recently, and looking for an adventure.
"He was at a point in his life where he had raised his kids," she said. "Both his boys (Devin and Raven) had graduated from high school. He had no mortgage. He had sold his condo recently and was between jobs.
"And he loved the game of soccer," she said. "He stumbled on this great organization, One World Futbol, and decided this would be his passion the next year."
In an interview with The Daily News in Longview, Wash., Swanson said he picked up soccer just five years ago and played on club teams and rooted for the Seattle Sounders.
"I felt destined that I should go on this trip," he said.
Swanson started out in flip-flops, and managed to spend 13 nights but switched to hiking sandals in Portland, Ore., Schwesinger said. He stayed two nights in Vancouver, Wash., with his son, Devin, but otherwise had been able to sleep on the couches of one stranger after another who befriended him and helped him on his journey.
"It was all by word of mouth, Facebook, media contacts, friends and family who put the word out," Schwesinger said.
Swanson spent Monday night in Lincoln City, where he was able to soak in a hot tub, and eat a gourmet breakfast, before he set off for Newport, not knowing where he would stay, she added. He posted photos and stories about his new friends on a Facebook page chronicling his journey.
Friends are talking about creating a foundation in Swanson's memory, and sending his two sons to Brazil for the World Cup, Schwesinger said.
"The hardest thing is he was so young," Schwesinger said. "Just today we were planning his surprise birthday party for Sunday. He was so young, so full of life, so excited by the journey he was on. To be taken from us so soon is really heartbreaking."
The driver of the pickup truck that hit Swanson is cooperating with police, Palmer said. Investigators are still trying to figure out exactly what happened. There is no word yet if any criminal charges will be filed.
Swanson posted a YouTube video explaining why he was taking this trip: