Allegedly ‘huffing’ impaired driver injures flagger

Witnesses say they feared the erratically-weaving car had killed her in the street. Read why officials say this was likely no ‘accident’ …

The Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Major Crash Team van is parked facing the area where a flagger was run down by an allegedly intoxicated driver on SE Division Street.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Those who regularly drive along SE Division Street, near Warner-Pacific College, know it’s wise to pay attention to signs warning of huge holes in the street.

The in-street lane detours, provided by the Portland Water Bureau, divert vehicles around city digs to install new valves and pipes.

Just minutes after noon on March 25, 47-year-old Margot Davis, a safety flagger working for Water Bureau contractor SSC Construction, was standing on the north sidewalk of SE Division Street, slowly waving a “SLOW” sign, encouraging drivers to slow down in the construction area.

Officials say this was the sedan that swerved onto the sidewalk, struck a flagger, and then spun out on the lawn of Warner-Pacific College.

“Investigators say that a vehicle was westbound on Division, weaving in and out of the traffic lane, as it approached SE 68th Avenue,” said Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

The driver apparently didn’t see Davis, dressed orange safety vest, nor did he heed her “SLOW” sign. Nor did he stay in the traffic lane.

A PPB criminalist carefully bags evidence at the crash scene.

“The vehicle swerved towards Davis [on the sidewalk] as it continued westbound, and struck her at 68th Avenue,” Simpson said. “The vehicle then continued to travel westbound, over a curb and through a grassy area before coming to a stop.”

Daniel Moyer said he was waiting for a bus when the flagger was struck. “There was a ‘thud’ and ‘crack’ sound that made me look over, and this flag person was thrown in the air.”

Investigators and officers continue to gather evidence at the crash scene.

He was too startled and unnerved to call 9-1-1 right then, Moyer said.

“She was lying in the street; and the other [construction] workers ran right over,” Moyer told East Portland News. “But, she didn’t move at all for quite a while. I thought she’d died.”

Although he didn’t spend a single day in jail, 49-year-old Patrick S. Miller will be called to face numerous charges relating to this crash. MCDC booking photo

The driver, later identified as 49-year-old Patrick S. Miller, sat in the silver four-door sedan as PPB District and Traffic Division officers surrounded his car, stopped facing the street, on the college’s lawn, Moyer told us.

“Miller was taken into custody after investigators located evidence that he was ‘huffing’ nitrous oxide,” Simpson said, “and, possibly using controlled substances.”

Those looking for a quick, cheap “high” may try to inhale food-grade nitrous oxide, a propellant often provided in small aluminum canisters, manufactured to power “Whip-it®” brand whipping cream dispensers.

Using a “Total-Station” surveying device, officers electronically enter data that can be used to digitally reconstruct the crash scene.

Miller was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) at 6:53 p.m. that afternoon, on charges of Assault in the Third Degree, Reckless Driving, and Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII).

However, later that evening, a judge released Miller “On Own Recognizance”, under the “Pretrial Release Supervision” program.

The victim is likely to be in the hospital for quite a while; Davis is said to have multiple injuries. “But she is expected to survive,” Simpson said.

SE Division Street remains closed as investigators process the scene of the crash.

“We are deeply saddened to learn that an employee of SSC Construction was injured on the job today,” outgoing Portland Water Bureau Administrator David Shaff told reporters. “The safety of our employees, partners and the public is the Portland Water Bureau’s #1 priority.”

On the way out of his arraignment in Multnomah County Court the afternoon of March 26, Miller told reporters, “Sorry doesn’t begin to cover it” – after pleading “not guilty” to all of his charges in court.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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