Find out why no one has yet been charged, after a tragic accident that witnesses say took place in a well-marked, but poorly lit, crosswalk just south of the Freddie’s parking lot …
Within minutes of the tragic incident, police investigators set up their equipment and start collecting data.
Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As of today, one young woman lies in a hospital bed, clinging to life with severe injuries from a car-versus-pedestrian accident that claimed her friend’s life the evening of November 1.
After hearing the police call regarding the incident, at about 7:25 p.m., we drove to SE Foster Road, just east of SE 80th Avenue, and came upon a grim scene. An ambulance was rushing away with a victim who officials identified as 29-year-old Jessica Finlay, a Southeast Portland resident, on board – transporting her to OHSU Hospital.
Finlay’s friend, 23-year-old Lindsay A. Leonard, also of SE Portland and a recent Reed College graduate, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Detective Mary Wheat.
What looked like merchandise was scattered in the street 20 feet east of the crosswalk; a sheet-covered victim lay a half block west of the crosswalk.
Members of the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division’s Major Crash Team arrived, and went to work, making measurements, talking to witnesses, and examining a Chevrolet Impala, with noticeable impact areas on the windshield and car body.
“The driver of the car is being completely cooperative,” Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Sgt. Mike Fort told us at the scene. “There are no obvious signs of driver impairment.”
The reason why the car struck two pedestrians in a marked crosswalk wasn’t obvious, Fort said. “That’s why we secure the scene, and bring in our Major Crash Team.”
Using part of the “Total Station” system, officers take precise measurements that will help them reconstruct the scene in a virtual, computer environment.
Every member of the team, Fort continued, has a specific duty. “The Reconstructionist is technically in charge of this investigation, and his job is making sure all the data is gathered. Other team members speak with witnesses; still others check to see if security and surveillance cameras in the area recorded the incident. They take photographs, and make measurements with a ‘Total Station’ system.”
The Total Station, we learned, is an electronic/optical surveying instrument that helps crime scene investigators take precise measurements of scenes and with specialized software, and process data that produces maps and 3-D animation sequences.
Traffic Division investigators examine every piece of evidence, being careful not to disturb it, all while being respectful to the deceased.
“In short, we try to get the very best data we can, of all kinds, while the information is still available,” Fort explained.
“What we understand, so far,” he told us, “is that two pedestrians were walking south, at the crosswalk, away from the Fred Meyer store; the car was going west on SE Foster Road, and struck them.”
We spoke with five individuals at the scene who, while none of them claimed to be direct witnesses, said they’d been in the immediate area. Each of their stories differed, some substantially. Some said the driver’s sight-line might have been obscured by a bus or vehicle at the time of the accident.
An officer checks over the vehicle said to have struck the women at the crosswalk.
One witness said the driver was very emotional for about the first 10 minutes, and then just looked “frozen”.
“The driver of the car has been identified as 40-year-old Tito Jose Feliciano of Vancouver, Washington,” Wheat later reported. “Mr. Feliciano cooperated fully with the investigation, and has not been cited or charged with any violation or crime.”
Asked why the driver of a vehicle that struck pedestrians who were apparently walking in a well-marked, if poorly lit, crosswalk was not cited or charged, Wheat responded, “The case is still under active investigation. The findings of the investigation will be sent to the District Attorney’s office for review.”
Police make sure the accident scene is undisturbed until all available evidence is collected.
The results of our own online research indicate that the deceased pedestrian, Leonard, worked with a local company, Sock Dreams, on S.E. Powell and in Sellwood. She was born in Upland, California, and graduated from The Webb Schools in Claremont, California, in 2004, before coming to Portland and attending and graduating from Reed College this year.
© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News