Drunk driver totals SUV in Marine Drive roll-over smash-up

It’s hard to believe the driver and passenger in this Nissan Pathfinder weren’t killed when he swerved off the road, bouncing and rolling down the dyke, and landing upside down at the edge of the Columbia River …

Officials say the pair were lucky to have walked away with hardly a scratch, after their SUV rolled, bounced and jolted down the steep embankment along Marine Drive – and almost into the river!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Those wanting to commute using NE Marine Drive the morning of October 28 were disappointed to find it was shut down, due to what police describe as a drunk-driving mishap.

“At 8:03 a.m., officers were called to the 7000 block of Northeast Marine Drive,” reported Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz. “A Nissan Pathfinder driven by 39-year-old Carlton Cherry drove off the road and came to a stop near the Columbia River.”

Investigators determined that Carlton was traveling eastbound on NE Marine Drive when he veered into the oncoming lane, attempted to swerve back into the correct lane, and then lost control of his vehicle.

A Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division officer looks at the crumpled Pathfinder far below his vantage point on the Marine Drive Bike Path. You can see the wheels of the SUV in the lower right-hand corner of this photo.

A tow truck driver hands the vehicle’s keys to the traffic officer before the SUV is recovered. Perhaps this wouldn’t have happened if someone would have taken the driver’s keys before he got behind the wheel.

Crumpled SUV tells a tale
When we arrived on-scene, we couldn’t see the wrecked vehicle while we were standing on Marine Drive. After making our way carefully down to the bike path – about halfway between the top of the levee and the water’s edge – we then could see the crumpled vehicle lying at the water’s edge, next to an estuary. It the accident had occurred during the springtime, high-water months – the car would have been underwater.

The top, front, sides, and rear of the Nissan Pathfinder were smashed in. No wonder – we could clearly see where the vehicle had dug a foot into the earth just above the bike path. It apparently flipped and rolled across the path, continuing down across the jagged boulders on its way to the edge of the Columbia River.

Two wrecker crews arrived, trying to figure out how to recover the mangled SUV. They called in a third, “Heavy Recovery Vehicle”, to yank the vehicle up the steep, rock-covered embankment, so they could load it onto a waiting flatbed truck.

It took several tries to find a strategy – and a heavy-duty “recovery vehicle” – to pull the wrecked SUV up the steep embankment to the flatbed truck waiting on the Marine Drive bicycle path.

Only minor injuries sustained
“Carlton sustained a minor injury,” Schmautz told us, “and his passenger, 47-year-old April Brunson, was not injured. Carlton was transported to Emanuel Hospital for evaluation and has been charged with one count each of Reckless Driving and DUII.

No other vehicles were involved in the accident.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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