Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 22nd, 2007 at 11:19 am
Eschweiler’s car came to a stop
near the fence in the background.
(Photos by Jonathan Maus)
My office is just a few blocks from where Johnny Eschweiler drove his car into Ben Ramsdell and Timothy Mastne last Friday.
Yesterday I went over to check out the lay of the land, hoping for a clearer understanding of this unconscionable act of road rage.
While I snapped photos and let my mind wander to the various conversations and news reports I’ve heard and read in the past few days, I noticed someone taking a smoke break at a nearby shop.
As I approached Sean Bennett and told him why I was snooping around, he immediately began sharing what he experienced that day. “I didn’t see it, but we definitely heard it. They ended up right over there,” he shared as he pointed to a grassy area where SE Clinton St. veers south and becomes SE 10th (view map below).
“We ran out of the shop right away…and then brought out a bunch of towels to help these guys.”
Bennett described a gruesome scene (I’ll spare the details) and it was clear the event made an indelible impression on him. Even though he’s a daily bike commuter (from the northeast Alberta area, about 5 miles north), he didn’t feel like riding home that day.
“I’ve seen a lot of bang ups and crashes, but nothing like this…it scared the crap out of me. I called my parents in Texas and told them about it.” Then, he said, “I called my friends looking for a ride. I didn’t find one, so I rode home…but I was extra careful.”
The stretch of SE Clinton where the collision occurred is an industrial, narrow, two-lane road with parking on both sides. The road is marked with PDOT’s bicycle boulevard/wayfinding signs (those little dots with a bike symbol), and on Metro’s Bike There! map the area is listed as a “Caution Area”.
I asked Bennett to describe how it might have happened based on what he saw. He said the initial impact occurred just west of the intersection of SE Clinton and SE 11th/Milwaukie (the white Honda Accord that Eschweiler swiped en route to hitting Ramsdell was still parked there yesterday).
Bennett and I tried to figure out how the second cyclist, Timothy Mastne, who was riding in the opposite direction, could have been hit.
As you can see from my reconstruction and aerial view of the scene below, it’s possible Mastne was either riding on the north side of the street, or he could have just taken the curve a bit wide (the street is quite narrow).
The distance from the initial impact to where the car (and Ramsdell) came to rest took my breath away. My mind flashed to the images I saw on TV news footage of two mangled bikes and a smashed windshield.
I thought: How could anyone’s anger at another road user boil over so severely?
I was surprised to find the gutter still littered with broken bits of bike lights and flattened, grated down AA batteries; a single brake pad also lies amid the destructive detritus.
Bennett said that after the collision, Eschweiler just stayed in his car. “He just sat there, talking away on his cell phone for a long time. At one point we heard him tell someone, ‘I’m not going to make it tonight, I’m going to jail.'”