Tipsy driver plunges outer East Portland into darkness

In addition to forcing thousands of residents to awaken to cold houses and chilly showers, this underage drunk driver also shut off power to Adventist Medical Center …

There weren’t any signs of skid marks, which would have shown that the driver made any attempt to stop before plowing in the PGE Midway Substation.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Almost 16,000 homes, businesses, intersections – and yes, even Portland Adventist Medical Center and Emergency Room – lost electrical power in the early morning hours of February 6.

Police say the wide-spread outage was caused by the out-of-control driving of an under-age drunk driver.

A neighbor across the street, Larry Fender, said he slept through the crash. “What woke me up was the noise from the sirens and the flashing lights outside my window. I went to turn on the lights, but our power was off.”

Looking out his window, Fender said he could see that a car had driven into PGE’s Midway Substation on SE Division Street at SE 139th Avenue. “I didn’t see it, but my neighbor said she saw the driver of the car struggling to get out of the car, and try to run away, but she couldn’t get back out through the fence.”

Judging by the damage caused when the car ripped through the fence and into the electrical substation, it must have been traveling at a high rate of speed.

Passed out at the wheel
We inspected the pavement and lawn at the accident scene.

There were no skid marks or signs the driver tried to stop or slow down as she drove wildly south on SE 139th Avenue, whipped across SE Division Street, popped up over the curb, whizzed across 20 feet of lawn, took out guy wires, barreled through a heavy-duty chain-link fence, and came to a stop after knocking out two supports for one of the giant electrical power breakers in the substation.

Neighbors gathered to watch the repairs underway, and commented that the driver must have been “dead at the wheel” drunk.

Dangerous work in the dead of night
Soon after the accident, reported at 2:38 am, Portland General Electric crews were on-site, looking at the damage.

“While the Subaru was still wedged in the tower supports,” PGE spokesman Steve Corson, told us, “our crews were working on ways to get the power back on.”

Long after the intruding car was removed – and long into the following day – PGE crews worked around live, dangerously-high current-carrying equipment, to repair the damage caused by the underage drunk driver.

An electrical power substation, Corson explained, is a central distribution point that feeds the power “feeder” lines snaking out into the surrounding neighborhoods. “When the driver clipped the guy wires holding utility poles that supporting our incoming power transmission lines – and damaged the support stanchions for the lines – the substation shut down.”

By 7:30 a.m., workers managed to restore power to about half of the affected area, still leaving 7,800 homes and business in the dark.

“We want to get power restored quickly to customers, but we do have to do it safely,” commented Corson. “Our workers put their safety training to work, while they were working in a hazardous situation. The Subaru was in the midst of it all, and we had to work safely around it.”

8:15 a.m., everyone’s juice was back on. Yet, throughout the day, as many as a dozen PGE crew members carefully worked around the electrified lines, welding new supports into place, and fixing damaged monitoring equipment.

Police say that this young woman, 20-year-old Felica Londres, was the driver who smashed into the Midway Substation.

Driver shouldn’t have been boozing
The hard-partying driver responsible for this costly and inconvenient incident was, according to Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz, 20-year-old Felica Londres.

“Londres attempted to run from the scene, but was trapped by the fence and was taken into custody,” Schmautz reported. “She was evaluated at Portland Adventist Hospital. Then, she was booked into jail on one count each of DUII, Hit and Run, and Attempting to Elude a Police Officer.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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