Jeep snips utility pole; misses grade school by inches

We held this story until we could find out what caused this unusual crash. Do you believe the driver’s explanation?

Is it possible at an SUV with a stalled engine – driving at the speed limit on NE Glisan Street – could snip this heavy utility pole like it was a twig, and continue on into the school?

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Witnesses say a westbound Jeep Cherokee, on NE Glisan Street, veered across eastbound lanes of traffic and struck a utility pole with such force that it sheared off the pole at its base.

Even the force of that collision didn’t stop the Jeep – it continued across the parking strip and stopped in the bushes, just inches from Glenfair Elementary School, in the 15200 block of NE Glisan Street.

The result: Bundles of electrical power, telephone, and cable television wires dangle and droop down onto the street, closing NE Glisan for most of the afternoon on August 3.

“Ear witness” describes the wreck
Kids who came in for their summer lunch and educational enrichment program play outside the school – fortunately, behind the building.

In front of Glenfair Elementary stands Principal Shane Bassett, looking at the damage and shaking his head.

“I was in my office,” Basset tells us. “In the corner of my eye, I saw something – a rapid movement – and heard a loud ‘crack’. When I looked out my window, I saw the pole was broken. The car was still rolling toward the school building. It stopped before it hit the school. I saw him (the driver) get out, and walk around. He seemed OK.”

The driver of the Jeep Cherokee tells the paramedic he lost control when his “engine quit”.

“Shook up” driver questioned
Multnomah County Sherriff’s Office, Portland Police Bureau and Portland Fire & Rescue rush to the scene of the accident, close off NE Glisan Street, and cordon off the power wires, keeping kids and parents at a distance.

Portland Fire & Rescue firefighter and paramedic Jay Fink tells us the driver stated that his steering locked up when his engine quit.

“The driver is OK. He was wearing his seat belt.” Fink added.

The brush guard on the Jeep Cherokee was bent in a “v” shape, pushing deep into the engine compartment as it snapped the utility pole on two.

As we were leaving, utility workers were surveying the damage. “The way these utility poles are loaded, they’re under a lot of downward pressure. Because the weight is balanced, it makes the poles actually stronger. It takes a lot of force to snap one like this,” a power company worker commented.

Officials say they may never know the true cause of the accident. The Jeep is too badly damaged to determine exactly what may have transpired before the accident. The driver is not arrested, charges are not filed.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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