‘Oblivious’ driver broadsided by MAX train in Hazelwood

Witnesses, including an off-duty police officer, say they were surprised the elderly driver who turned in front of a rolling MAX train wasn’t killed

Portland Police NRT Officer Michael Gallagher (center, writing on the pad on the car) witnessed what he said was a grinding mix-up between the wrecked car and a MAX train.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Witnesses say it did not look like the driver of blue Dodge Astra was racing, trying to beat the MAX train to the SE 108th Ave. intersection from E. Burnside St.

Nevertheless, the heedless driver lost the contest and was struck, broadside, on the clear, dry early afternoon of March 8.

Thought she was killed
“I happened to look out the window,” says neighbor Laura MacDonald, “and couldn’t believe I was seeing a car just turn in front of the MAX train. It slammed into the car so hard, it spun it around. I thought it must’ve killed the driver for sure.”

The MAX Train coupler struck the car broadside, first in the driver’s door; then in the rear quarter-panel, as it spun it off the tracks.

Driver appears oblivious
About to start his afternoon shift, off-duty Portland Police NRT Officer Michael Gallagher was on his way from the Gateway Area Business Association meeting to East Precinct.

“I was coming south on SE 108th Avenue, waiting for traffic to clear,” Gallagher tells us on scene. She [the driver of the Dodge] was westbound on E. Burnside St. I observed her pulling into the left hand turn lane to travel south on 108th. She appeared to be oblivious to the MAX train, bearing down upon the intersection.”

Gallagher says the train indicator lights and traffic signals were operating, and the MAX train sounded the horn, then hit its brakes.

“When I got out, checking on her after the accident, I thought she’d be seriously injured ‚Äì or worse,” says Gallagher.

TriMet officials check over the MAX train; it is released to continue its westward journey.

Instead of finding a mangled driver, the officer says the heedless driver refused medical attention – and, using her four-point cane, walked away from the accident.

“It was my fault, I think,” said the elderly woman. “I didn’t see it.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service.

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