Oren Dorell, a former construction contractor who became a globe-trotting foreign affairs reporter for USA TODAY, died Friday evening in Washington D.C. He was 53.
Dorell was hit by a suspected drunken driver while riding his motorcycle. The crash is under investigation.
D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department said Dorell was driving east in the 1100 block of H Street NE on a 2018 Kawasaki Ninja just before 8:30 p.m. when he was struck by a Toyota Camry, which fled the scene. The driver, 47-year-old Daryl Grant Alexander, faces charges of second-degree murder, driving under the influence and leaving after colliding, police said.
Dorell was taken to MedStar Hospital, where he died, said his wife, Virginia “Ginny” Knapp Dorell. He leaves behind his wife and two sons: Malcolm, 12, and Leo, 11.
Dorell enjoyed a journalism career that spanned two decades. In his 13 years at USA TODAY, he traveled to far reaches of the world, covering historic events, from Middle East uprisings to natural disasters.
He had a spirit for adventure and a tendency to think differently. Journalism, his wife explained, made him feel like he was making a difference in the world.
“He was really full of life,” she said. “He wanted to do everything and experience everything.”
Born in Canada in 1964, Dorell lived in Bolivia and Philadelphia, but considered his home to be Haifa, Israel, where he lived from ages 5 to 12. After high school, he ran his own contracting business in Philadelphia. After about a decade, he decided on a career in journalism and enrolled at Temple University. He worked at a few small publications in Philadelphia before getting a job at the Akron Beacon Journal in 1998. There, he covered Akron’s suburbs and met Ginny, a copy editor. They married in 2003.
Dorell left the Beacon Journal in 2000 to cover a police beat at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. He started working at USA TODAY in January 2005 as a breaking news reporter before moving to foreign affairs. Dorell liked the job, his wife said, because it gave him a chance to travel the world, which meshed nicely with his dream of becoming a foreign correspondent.
“He enjoyed going to conflict zones,” she said. “He was in his element there.”
Dorell covered the Iraq war, conflict in Ukraine and was in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, when Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak resigned in 2011. He also was on the ground for hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike.
“Stubborn, bull-headed and persistent. He never ever gave up,” Knapp Dorell said of her husband. His tenacity was known throughout the USA TODAY newsroom.
“Oren was a terrific reporter, dogged in his pursuit of accurate stories,” said Owen Ullmann, one of his editors. “He was also a wonderful colleague, husband and father. I can’t begin to say how much we will miss him.”
“Oren was a consummate professional with a zest for life and ever-curious mind. A true reporter who could be counted on to provide stellar coverage,” said Jessica Durando, an editing colleague. “It is devastating to think that he will no longer be with his USA TODAY family and loved ones. My heart goes out to his wife and children, the people he loved the most.”
Dorell loved spending time with his two sons and took them backpacking, diving and hiking, hoping to instill in them the same adventurous spirit.
“He really lived life to the fullest. He really did push himself,” Knapp Dorell said. “And that I hope to pass on to the kids, that they should go out and experience the world and not be afraid of anything. He wasn’t afraid of anything at all.”
Funeral services have not yet been arranged.
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