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Vancouver collision update: Boy clings to life, investigation continues

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 28th, 2009 at 11:38 am

"All I know is that she was distracted. She didn't see him somehow, that's all we're being told."
-- Keith Miles, Kristopher Miles' grandfather

14-year boy Kristopher Miles clings to life this morning in a Portland trauma center, one week after 28-year old Andrea Dickinson ran him over with her SUV while he rode home in a marked crosswalk just two blocks from his middle school in Vancouver.

According to a story filed last night by The Columbian, Miles underwent surgery yesterday to relieve swelling on his brain and "the outlook remained grim." The boy has been in a drug-induced coma since the crash and he has severe brain injuries, a broken femur, a punctured lung and a broken rib.

I left a voice message with a Vancouver Police Officer a few days ago to learn more about the crash. The initial statement from the Vancouver PD pointed out that Dickinson came to a complete stop on the opposite side of the intersection before colliding with Miles. She also dragged him under her car up to 100 feet before coming to a stop (map of intersection here).

Story continues below

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Yesterday I received a phone call from Kristopher's grandfather, Keith Miles. Mr. Miles has been thrust into the role of spokesperson for their family. Not surprisingly, he had a lot of feelings to get off his chest, and I offered a willing ear.

Note: The intersection currently has
painted crosswalks.
-Google Map-

Mr. Miles said the Police are still investigating the collision and that they have chosen to not cite Dickinson at this time because they want to complete the investigation before doing so (this is a common practice for police in this situation. If they were to issue a traffic citation, it might make it more difficult to bring more severe charges -- such as careless driving -- at a later time.)

"All I know," said Mr. Miles, "is that she was distracted. She didn't see him somehow, that's all we're being told."

Miles said the Vancouver PD has done speed tests that show Dickinson was traveling 20 mph at the point of impact. Now they're looking into why she didn't stop after she hit him. Miles explained that she just panicked. "They're telling me she went into panic mode and that she hit the gas instead of the brake...there were no skidmarks at all," he explained.

Mr. Miles said he confronted Dickinson at the scene of the crash and said "she's had a complete meltdown." Miles described her as being so "absolutely devastated" by the crash that she could hardly speak.

Clearly angered by what Dickinson has done, Miles said he doesn't want to point fingers.

"Am I mad at her? Absolutely. Do I hate her? Absolutely. Do I want to reach through the phone and shake her? Absolutely. He was wearing a bright red sweatshirt and a bright red backpack.... when you hit something why do you not stop!?"

But despite these angry feelings, Miles said he's spoken with Dickinson' mother several times and that their family, "seems to be very caring and very concerned." Throughout our conversation he expressed empathy with what the Dickinson family was going through.

As for the investigation, Miles confirmed that her car has been impounded and Officers have determined it was not faulty. He explained that the Vancouver PD is waiting for all their investigations to be complete before they evaluate them and make a determination as to whether or not she should face criminal charges.

In all reports so far about the crash it has been clearly stated that Kristopher was not wearing a helmet when he was hit. Mr. Miles says the cops have told him that "a helmet wouldn't have done him a bit of good, given how much force and trauma occurred." Dickinson's SUV hit the boy on the side of the head, explained Mr. Miles, and helmets are most effective for top-of-the-head impacts.

As Kristopher Miles fights for his life, his family and community are coming to his side. A website has been set up with donation information and a guestbook full of well-wishes from classmates and friends.

Despite legal questions and discussions about fault and bike safety, in the end we all lose. "It's a no-win situation for my family," expressed Mr. Miles, "and it's a no-win situation for her family. I might lose my grandson and she'll (Amanda Dickinson) carry this guilt around with her forever."

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Comments
  • a.O January 28, 2009 at 11:46 am

    My thoughts are with you Kristopher.

    How does the Vancouver PD know that Dickinson came to a complete stop on the other side of the intersection?

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  • bahueh January 28, 2009 at 11:47 am

    unbelievable...I'll be the first to guess it was a cell phone..

    I hope she does jail time, seriously, and I hope her judge makes an example out of her, and I hope the story is widely publicized as to repercussions of distracting oneself while driving.

    I feel for her family however and everything they're going through and everything they will go through in the coming weeks...

    Can we please not make this another banal helmet discussion...sometimes they work...sometimes the impact is just too much...just like a seatbelt, sometimes they save you, other times they cut you in half.

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  • bahueh January 28, 2009 at 11:48 am

    a.o...I would guess witness accounts...

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 28, 2009 at 11:52 am

    "How does the Vancouver PD know that Dickinson came to a complete stop on the other side of the intersection?"

    That's one of the problems with how police depts. report crashes.

    Their initial report made that statement, however they also say that we should wait to draw too many conclusions until they've had time to investigate.

    It's clear that they based that initial assumption not on investigation, but on what they learned from involved parties and possibly from witnesses at the scene.

    the unfortunate thing is that the tone of the intitial statement makes it seem like it's just an accident and we're left as a society to think this is simply collateral damage we have to accept while moving around on public roads.

    Obviously this woman did not intend to hurt anyone... but we'll never be able to effectively address our problematic transportation culture unless we begin to have less tolerance for these types of tragedies.

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  • PdxMark January 28, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Agree with Jonathan #4...

    We need to stop treating roadway death and injuries as an acceptable price of automotive transportation. People need to drive as if their own lives, as they know them, are dependent on preventing crashes that injure anyone.

    On the one hand, I'm not sure it really matters whether or not she stopped. Failure to stop would be the secondary traffic offense after the careless driving, and maybe hit and run, that seem to be the greater offenses here.

    It seems that if she did stop, the 20 mph at impact would suggest a pretty fast acceleration from the stop sign on the other side of the intersection. Either she stopped and hot-rodded the start, or she didn't stop.

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  • Quentin January 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Jonathan, thanks for the update. This tragedy is yet another reminder of how vulnerable cyclists are and how outrageously careless some drivers are. Andrea Dickinson's shock and remorse generates zero sympathy from me, and I'm sure many other cyclists are equally outraged at her egregious negligence. She deserves several years in prison and she should never be allowed to drive again. I'm sure you will keep us up-to-date on the legal proceedings, as many of us are eager to see justice served.

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  • a.O January 28, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Exactly. That statement of purported fact does not belong in the report and is something to be established at trial by those who judge the witness'(es) credibility.

    You know, I do permitting of energy and natural resource development projects for a living. It's amazing all the hoops you have to jump through to get a permit from the government to, say, put up a wind turbine. And a wind turbine is very unlikely to ever injure anyone.

    But virtually anyone can get a permit (license) to operate a motor vehicle on the public roads, and they're downright deadly when operated by humans.

    There has to be more accountability.

    The civil law system (usually) creates some level of redress. But in cases like this it's obviously totally inadequate. Only a more rigorous licensure system can hope to prevent tragedies like this.

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  • Angela January 28, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    My thoughts and prayers are with Kristopher and his family.

    RE sympathy for the driver:
    My grandmother was killed in a crash when a tractor trailer was blocking the road and her car struck it. The truck driver was found to be 100% at fault and expressed his deepest sympathy to our family. Then his company's attorneys went on to argue for a lesser punishment based on my grandma's age and therefore reduced value of her life. We had to collect family archives and stories from community members to prove that the loss of her life was significant. It made me absolutely sick and to this day I will never ever fall for a show of sympathy as a tool to beg for forgiveness. What the driver of the vehicle did in this case was wrong, a young boy and his family are suffering due to her negligence, so she needs to be held accountable to the greatest extent the law allows.

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  • John Reinhold January 28, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    There has been a lot of hubub and questioning whether downtown is safe, after that random shooting.

    I want to point out to people, and I may be preaching to the choir here - but the single greatest threat to a child's safety in the USA is the automobile.

    We need to hold drivers to higher standards. We should test and certify and retest auto drivers like we do airplane pilots.

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  • Jason Penney January 28, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    What a heartbreaker. My sympathy goes out to all of the principals in this tragedy.

    I second #9. I also think the level of accountability we hold drivers to is way too low. Why, I bet Ms. Dickinson doesn't even get her license revoked for doing this. Can you imagine the outrage if we left a schoolteacher in the classroom after killing a student? If we left a pharmacist at his job after killing a patient through carelessness?

    Why do we not hold people accountable for their actions when they climb inside of an automobile? I'm just baffled.

    P.S. I'm not saying that we should revoke licenses as a *punitive* measure. I'm saying it follows rational public safety principles to ensure that individuals known to be dangerous be banned from driving for some reasonable period, say three years. After that period they can petition for reinstatement.

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  • peejay January 28, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    If I recall correctly, wasn't it disproven that citing a driver for traffic violations has no bearing on whether a DA can file more serious charges later? In fact, isn't it viewed as exculpatory evidence that no ticket was issued at the time if more serious charges are filed later?

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  • a.O January 28, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    peejay (#11): That is almost certainly true in Oregon. There is a case in Portland in which the court found that it was not "double jeopardy" (not a legal term) to issue a reckless driving traffic citation and to charge the same driver with the crime of reckless driving for the same conduct. (He was drunk and hit someone on 205.) If those two are sufficiently different, then virtually any citation and criminal charge would likely be under Oregon law. (This did not stop the Multnomah County DA from using this excuse, even after I pointed out the case to them.) But I'm not sure about Washington.

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  • K'Tesh January 28, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Ponder this: We allow a delay for a background check for a person wanting to purchace a gun and actually being able to pick it up.

    Perhaps we should have a similar delay for the weapon known as a "Drivers Licence"

    My Reguards to Kristopher, his Family, and Friends.

    God Bless

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  • Mark C January 28, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Another reason I hate these large SUVs and jacked-up pickups. The driver can't see anything right in front of them that's less than 36"-42" tall. Plus, if you do get hit you're more likely to go under instead of be thrown clear or onto the hood. Stupid, oversized death machines. That, plus the fact she was likely yakking on the cell phone or fiddling with the stereo. Ahhhh!!!

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  • Joe Rowe January 28, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    This is another E-accident aka E-murder. Is it really an accident? What about any witness statements?

    Let's Do Some Math: You are texting while driving, you hear a thud, it takes you a few seconds to hit the brakes and there are no skid marks because you only feel "devastated" when you get out of the car and see the blood and guts everywhere! This explains the lack of skid marks.

    Whenever there is such a serious injury the police should have instantly taken the driver and all passengers away in handcuffs and sealed off the car and all possessions. The driver should be given several drug and blood tests. Why? There is too much room to hide the evidence:

    iPod, earPods, text message evidence, cell phone call log evidence, car stereo, personal grooming.

    And they should interview the driver and each passenger separately with a lawyer. All their stories should match up. This is all within the rule of law.

    Here is what police should ask the occupants:

    What was the purpose of her trip? Was there a deadline or someone late for something? Was there any music playing in the car. Were they lost or off course? What was the driver doing other than driving? Is the driver on any medications? The list of valid and legal questions should be very long.

    Let's connect the dots and wake up lawmakers!

    Cyclists hit by driver sending text messages
    http://www.gotriad.com/node/4677

    LA Times website
    http://tinyurl.com/eaccident1
    Fed. safety investigators have said (the train conductor) sent and received dozens of text messages from his cellphone while on duty the day of the crash ... The last message was sent 22 seconds before his train collided with a Union Pacific freight train

    Do other people agree or am I stupid?

    Here is an idea. Try these steps if you ever witness anyone injured by a car driver with cell to ear or texting.

    a) go up to the driver and demand their cell phone to call 911. Take it from them if they don't give it to you.
    b) finish with 911 and put the phone in your pocket and help the victim(s) until the cops arrive
    c) give the media your witness statement also

    what do others think?

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  • Donna January 28, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    I hope they plan to subpoena cell phone records.

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  • Drewid January 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    The other day I was lectured by a woman who passed me while I was biking in the pre dawn hours. She said that she was startled by my presence, and that I should wear bright clothing to be more visible. My brilliant LED tailight with it's steady glow, and 3 layer ankle reflectors, rising and falling with each pedal stroke, were not enough for this person who almost "did not see me", and expects only other cars out there. I told her that she needs to be observant to what is in front of her at all times, in order to see other road users. I may as well have been talking to a tree stump.
    The bar is set really low to obtain a driver license. Most people erroneously think driving a car is a right (not a privilege). Seems like the main qualifications for a driver license is a pulse, and ability to pass a boneheaded multiple choice test.

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  • robert January 28, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Keep one thing in mind.

    I could come off a sidewalk and into a crosswalk so quickly that ANY of you could hit me if you were driving a car.
    I'm not blaming the kid but I am also weary of everyone on here wanting to burn someone at the stake without knowing what happened.

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  • Schrauf January 28, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    Good point. I think most people are assuming the driver was distracted because she took so long to stop, but it truly is possible she was driving safely and upon impact simply panicked and hit the accelerator.

    But the frustration you see on threads such as this is also a function of each of our experinces with true idiots on the road on a frequent basis.

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  • K'Tesh January 29, 2009 at 7:19 am

    You might want to check out the video jr98664 posted on the forums...

    http://bikeportland.org/forum/showpost.php?p=18004&postcount=16

    If I'm not mistaken, he took the video from the perspective of the cyclist. Kristopher would have been visible to the motorist, and not hidden behind a fence.

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  • T27 January 29, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Jonathan’s reporting states, “28-year old Andrea Dickinson ran him over with her SUV while he rode home in a marked crosswalk”. However, the Columbian reports “Boy struck by SUV”. Not only is Jonathans reporting better English, it is more accurate. Read any news report and the vehicle is always doing the hitting. Like SUVs are some kind of driverless drones out running the unwary down. Unfortunately the grammar used in the Columbian reflects societies views. Maybe we need a new bumper sticker - “SUVs Don’t Kill People - Drivers Kill People”.

    Thanks Jonathan for the accurate and literate reporting.

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  • Native Son January 29, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Double jeopardy only applies if there is a trial. Initial charges are often filed and later amended before trial as the evidence is developed. Citing a driver for a traffic violation, such as running a stop sign, does not prevent the DA from bringing more serious criminal charges later.

    I wonder if the police took the time to check her phone records? Was she talking on her cell or text messaging when the accident happened?

    And let's get over the notion that wearing a helmet is relevent in a car vs. cyclist collision. Helmets protect riders from biking accidents. I don't know of any helmet designed to withstand a 4,000+ pound vehicle parked on top of it.

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  • bahueh January 29, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Navite Son....you should do your homework a bit more before thinking a helmet cannot save a life when a rider is run over..

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10184035

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  • a.O January 29, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Can we please not make this another banal helmet discussion...sometimes they work...sometimes the impact is just too much...just like a seatbelt, sometimes they save you, other times they cut you in half.

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  • mabsf January 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I don't know if I am missing the point here, but I have a few questions about the incident:
    - Was the SUV in the school zone? If yes, wouldn't she had been too fast for speed limit in the school zone?
    - What is the right of way on marked crossing and is it voided when you are not a pedestrian?
    I didn't find any info about it the articles which I find really strange!

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  • Abbey January 29, 2009 at 10:24 am

    This is really saddening and frightening. All we can do as cyclists is be as careful as possible, because the caliber of drivers are not going to improve any time soon. It's not about who is right and who is wrong, it's about looking out for yourself.

    My #1 fear while driving is hitting a cyclist. I'm a careful driver, and I've never been in an accident, but I would like to see anyone make the claim that they've never had a lapse in focus while driving.

    I agree with robert that it's not up to us to judge without knowing the facts. I'm not saying she was or wasn't being careless, or that she doesn't deserve strict consequences, but none of us were there. My heart goes out to all those involved and their families. No one deserves any of this.

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  • Mike January 29, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Abbey-
    I too share your fear, but the way I view it is knd of like any other accident: not if I hit a cyclist, but when.
    Your first paragraph says it all: be as careful as possible. And yet, how often do you see truly reckless riding? I see it everyday, and while it may not be the case here, it should not be ruled out. This girl should not be found guilty based on her age, sex or the vehicle she was driving.
    I feel that it is inevitable that I will one day hit a fellow cyclist with my vehicle. I can only hope that the cyclist is uninjured and that I respond to the situation properly.

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  • Joe Rowe January 29, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Yes, there is a small chance the kid jumped out in front of the car on his bike. There is also a small chance that at the same time the driver hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes.

    There is a much larger chance that the driver was distracted by electronics etc.

    Some good observations worth repeating: This is most likely a school zone. If the boy was at the crosswalk entrance the driver should have stopped or slowed down. I always stop or drive very slowly if there are younger or older people near the road, because I am the dangerous object.

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  • PDX KT January 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Please guardians - put your kids in helmets.

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  • Joel January 29, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    mabsf

    I think that you have the right of way in a marked crosswalk on a bike when traveling at "walking speed". The article said she was traveling at 20 mph which is the speed limit. One question that I have is how do you get your car up to 20mph from a dead stop in the short space of an intersection?
    She must have really gunned the engine, which does not strike me as a particularly safe manner of driving.

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  • Opus the Poet January 29, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    For the posters that wonder how a big SUV can get to 20 MPH I can get to 13 MPH on my comfort bike in the distance of the intersection from stop bar to crosswalk, and the motor is still sitting on my bedroom floor, next to the batteries. Getting to 20 MPH in that distance is no big thing and doesn't require much effort on the part of the motor vehicle.

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  • Zaphod January 30, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Does anyone know how the boy is doing?

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  • Theresa Ballweber February 11, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Thanks to all for the prayers and well wishes regarding Kris' condition. A website has been set up that is updated almost daily with details of Kris' progress. You can access it at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/krismiles

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  • Marcus Griffith March 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Justice is not vengence and vengence is not justice.

    We all can, and have in many cases, speculated as to what happened in that collision. However, lets allow the investigation to move forward and let reason and facts guide the process.

    There is no easy way to address the death of a child. My thoughts and prayers go out to the familiy.

    May all road users learn that driving and cycling require due caution at all time.

    Not seeing someone when one did not even look for him or her is not an excuse.

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