Pedestrian dies in Montavilla crosswalk

Ever see a car in the next lane over stop, ‘for no good reason’?  There’s an important lesson to be learned from this grim accident …

A Portland Police Traffic Division car rushes toward the scene of what will turn out to be a deadly “SUV vs. pedestrian” accident.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Even though it’s only 6:00 p.m., it’s dark as midnight. Rain has been alternately drizzling and pouring down all day long on outer East Portland.

Two drivers, one in a car, slightly ahead – and a Chevy Blazer – are headed eastbound on NE Glisan Street.

The driver of the car in the outside lane notices a woman stepping off the curb, and into a crosswalk near the City Blessings Church, at NE 79th Avenue – and stops for the pedestrian, who was simply trying to get to the north side of the street.

In the inside lane, the driver of the 1985 Blazer doesn’t see the woman in the crosswalk, and doesn’t seem to heed the car in the next lane that stopped at an intersection without a traffic signal.

Sudden violent impact
The impact is so violent, it knocks the pedestrian out of her shoes; her belongings scattered across the street.

In that instant, on the evening of January 29, the life of 29-year-old Heather Jean Fitzsimmons of Southeast Portland was snuffed out.

She did nothing wrong; she was in a crosswalk and had the right-of-way. But Fitzsimmons lay dead on the cold, wet pavement of a Montavilla street.

On NE Glisan Street, Traffic Division officer confers with a District Officer at the accident scene.

A member of the Major Crash Team takes equipment out of their dedicated van.

The Blazer’s driver, a 24-year-old Tualatin woman, stayed at the scene, and cooperated with investigators, according to Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

Police released the name of the Blazer’s driver, but as of this writing, she hasn’t been arrested, or issued a citation – making her identity of little importance in this story. “But, the investigation is continuing,” added Simpson.

With their “Total Station” investigational equipment, officers begin gathering the information they’ll use to reconstruct the fatal accident.

In the dark drizzle that evening, as the PPB Traffic Division’s Major Crash Team set up their “Total Station” surveying and measuring equipment, neighbors on the sidewalk looked on in sad bewilderment.

“Seems like it was just a couple months ago they were doing one of those ‘Pedestrian missions’ right here, at this crosswalk,” on of the onlookers remarked.

In fact, the PPB and Sharon White with the Portland Bureau of Transportation had indeed conducted a “Crosswalk Enforcement Action” at this exact location on November 28.

Throughout the night, investigators continue to gather evidence.

What’s the lesson? If you see a car in the next lane stop, “for no good reason” on a city street, consider slowing down and preparing for a quick stop – to avoid what you can’t see in the intersection or crosswalk ahead.

There’s a good chance that if you don’t, you’ll carry the memory of a deadly collision and a life you’ve taken, burned in your mind for the rest of your life.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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