Elderly driver causes head-on crash, closing 82nd Avenue

We’re not sure of the cause of this smash-up – but the result was a startling accident. No one walked away from this one …

Portland Fire & Rescue’s Station 11 firefighters rush to cut open a car and remove the injured patient. As bad as it looks, authorities say the driver apparently wasn’t badly injured.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Imagine driving north on SE 82nd Ave. of Roses on a bright, sunny summer afternoon – then seeing the car in front of you cross over the lanes and collide, head-on, with oncoming traffic.

This experience occurred to motorist and witness Xavi Cortal on June 15 just after 1:30 p.m. Cortal told us the story began as he passed SE Flavel Street.

“We were in the car immediately behind him,” Cortal tells us, referring to a crumpled purple Dodge automobile, now blocking 82nd Avenue. “We were going northbound on SE 82nd Avenue, about 100 feet behind him. It looked like he was dozing off.”

SE 82nd Ave. of Roses was shut down while Portland Fire & Rescue crews pried victims out of their vehicles, mangled by the offset-head-on crash.

Cortal says he became concerned about the driver’s behavior. “He veered a little bit into the center lane, and then came back into his own lane.”

Between SE Knapp Street and SE Ogden Street, the unthinkable happened. “He did it again, but this time, veered all the way over into the other lane. There was a white car coming south; the [Dodge] car hit him head on.”

The accident wasn’t the fault of the driver being loaded into the ambulance – but officials discovered he was driving without a license or insurance.

Stays to help
While others called 9-1-1 on their cell phones, witnesses said Cortal – seeing that he couldn’t help the occupants of the cars, because the vehicles were so badly damaged – started directing traffic to keep others from running into now-mangled cars. “It was the best I could do,” he commented.

Firefighters had a big job on their hands prying the doors open and preparing to remove the driver who was said by officials to have caused the pile-up.

Reasons for crash remain unknown
Hoping to get a better idea of why the crash occurred, we contacted Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz to ask what was in the accident report.

“The collision occurred at 1:39 pm, when 86-year-old Ed Niemeyer, who was driving a Dodge northbound on S.E. 82nd Avenue, drifted into the oncoming lane, and collided with a Toyota driven by 31-year-old Labis Kragaris,” reported Schmautz.

“Niemeyer was transported but was not seriously injured. Niemeyer was cited for failing to maintain a lane of travel, and Kragaris was cited for driving without an operator’s license and driving without proof of insurance,” Schmautz added.

As bad as this wreck looks, officials say neither driver was seriously injured.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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