Speed, not booze, causes Centennial smash-up

It’s one of the worst single-car wrecks we’ve seen. Find out what happened, as told by an eye-witness who saw the incident unfold …

The car hit this wooden pole with such force, it snapped like a twig at ground level.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
“SE 162 Avenue is like a speedway,” said Centennial Neighborhood resident Vera Andersen, as she watched police investigating a car wreck across the intersection at SE Taggert Street. “Because it’s smooth and wide between SE Powell Boulevard and SE Division Street, people drive way too fast along here all of the time.”

Andersen shook her head as she walked away from the scene on March 22, after taking a final look at the destroyed car, clipped utility pole, and torn-up yard.

Although injured, both the driver and passenger of this car survived the smash-up.

Eyewitness to disaster
Scott Beach told us it was raining heavily, a little after 1:00 p.m., as he was driving north on SE 162nd Avenue from SE Powell Boulevard, headed toward SE Division Street.

“I was driving in the inside, or ‘fast’ lane,” Beach began, “doing about 40 or 45 mph. A car passed me in the ‘slow lane’ doing, I’d estimate, between 60 and 80 mph. He passed me like I was standing still.

The driver swerved in front of Beach, “Then, it was like he was trying to turn right into a driveway or onto Taggert Street. He went sideways and into the telephone pole; then into yard over there. I though he’d hit the house.”

Gives good medical advice
Beach said he stopped in the left-hand turn lane on 162nd Avenue. “When I got out, family members or friends were hollering for me to help them pull them out of the car. I told them no, you need to leave them in the car. I’d noticed electrical wires hanging down into the water.”

Trying to help the situation, Beach said he directed traffic around the wreck until Portland Fire & Rescue and police officers arrived.

“It took them a while to get them out of the car; they both went to the hospital,” recalled Beach. “They look pretty banged up. The driver was conscious but the passenger was kind of twitching like he was of out of it.”

SE 162nd Ave. was closed for much of the day as the Portland Police Bureau’s Major Crash Team investigate the wreck.

Although Beach recalled the younger of the two men he saw in the car being the driver, Portland Police Bureau’s Public Information Officer Detective Mary Wheat told us, “The driver of the vehicle has been identified as 23-year old George Pitsul. The passenger in the vehicle is a 16-year old juvenile male; we’re not releasing his name due to his age.”

Police say this man, 23-year old George Pitsul, was arrested and charged with three separate counts, all stemming from this accident.

Both occupants of the vehicle were hospitalized for several days, Wheat said. “Investigators believe that speed was a factor in this incident and do not believe any alcohol was involved.”

On Friday, March 27th, Pitsul was arrested on one count of Assault in the Third Degree, one count of Reckless Driving, and one count of Recklessly Endangering Another Person.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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