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Gresham police say 10-year-old boy’s death on Burnside is “horrible accident”

Posted by on March 29th, 2016 at 11:57 am

bside-street-driving

View of Burnside eastbound at 162nd. Shbeb was crossing from the light rail station on left when he was hit.

East Portland is once again reeling after the death of a young person who was using the street while not in an automobile. It’s already being called an accident, but there’s reason to think more deeply than that label usually allows.

Just 10 days ago 17-year-old Austin Hrynko died after being hit by a man driving drunk on SE Center Street near Powell Butte. Then yesterday afternoon just three miles north of where Hrynko was hit, 10-year-old Jaafar Shbeb was struck and killed by a woman driving a car as he tried to cross East Burnside.

Yesterday’s tragedy happened just a block or so across the Portland/Gresham border at 162nd. There’s a light rail line in the middle of Burnside at this location which makes the street relatively narrow.

Here’s the view from the crosswalk looking south:

bside-streetview-walking

And here’s the aerial view for context:

bside-aerial

For the latest update, see the statement below released this morning by the Gresham Police Department:

Horrific Accident Claims Life of Young Boy

East County communities are mourning the loss of a 10-year-old boy, killed yesterday at 4:16 p.m. when he inadvertently stepped into the pathway of a vehicle on Burnside St. The crash was witnessed by a Gresham police officer who happened to be patrolling the area at that time.

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Six weeks shy of his eleventh birthday, Jaafar Shbeb was walking south on NE 162nd Ave. with his sister and a friend. The group stopped in the middle of Burnside, in the crosswalk portion of the eastbound MAX platform. Their light was red, as was the crosswalk sign, when Shbeb started to cross the southern portion of the road.

Investigators believe Shbeb was not paying attention to the flow of traffic when he stepped into the roadway and was struck by an eastbound 2008 Nissan Rogue. The car’s driver, Deanna Kurtzbein, 59, of Gresham, had no time to stop or alter her path before hitting Shbeb. Kurtzbein remained at the scene and cooperated fully with the investigation. The crash has been ruled an accident and Kurtzbein is not facing arrest or citation.

Shbeb was attending nearby Glenfair Elementary School. Along with his family, Kurtzbein, and all who witnessed this tragedy, Glenfair is also in mourning. Working with Glenfair’s principal Lisa McDonald, Reynolds School District has extra counselors on site at multiple schools to help friends and schoolmates of Shbeb process this incident. Glenfair has brought a therapy dog to the school and will be talking with students about traffic safety as part of their healing process.

This is gut-wrenching on many levels. I have a 10-year old daughter who walks to school and hangs out on the streets in our neighborhood with her siblings and friends. This morning I watched her and my 13 and 5-year-old all walk down our street to school and my stomach churned as I thought about what Jaafar Shbeb’s family must be going through.

But my sadness won’t stop me from seeing the bigger picture.

burnsidememorial

Memorial for Jaafar.
(Photo: Cory Poole)

The activist in me cringes when authorities call this a “horrible accident.” We constantly preach around here that it’s “crash not accident.” However, I also know how dominant cultural norms work. In this case the off-duty officer who saw what happened, the media who covered it, and everyone else who responded, see the situation through the eyes of the driver, Ms. Kurtzbein. That happens because they, as people who use the roads primarily with an automobile, see themselves in her shoes. Then, when a driver is remorseful, cooperates with police and “remains at the scene,” a strong empathetic impulse takes over. Police agencies also foresee the public outcry that occurs when tragedies like this happen. The empathy combines with this public relations instinct and an inertia builds to establish a narrative that absolves everyone. The entire situation is then engulfed in the halo of sensitivity our culture gives to “horrible accidents.”

“There’s just nothing we can do about it,” is the feeling the powerful cultural norm wants you to have. Do your grieving, it demands, then go back to business as usual.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people and split-second decisions can have life-altering consequences. I get that. But if we dismiss traffic crashes like this as simply an “accident” we do an injustice to victims like Jaafar Shbeb and the others like him that we’ll mourn in the future.

Streets — especially ones with public transit stations adjacent to them! — are places. They are not solely for driving on and moving through. And they are owned by all of us — whether we’re inside or outside of a car. Speed and power does not give one road user any more right to these places than another (“might does not make right” is a phrase I often think of).

Some people are shocked when I tell them I don’t teach my children to fear the streets. Respect, yes. But fear? No. I teach my children to see streets as beautiful places where people can come together to do wonderful, life-affirming things. Yes, we often drive on them; but we also bike on them, play catch on them, do chalk art on them, have parties on them, and so on. And we should all expect that this street — this place — where Jaafar and his friends were hanging out after school should not be so inherently dangerous that a momentary lapse of attention would lead to someone’s death.

Just because we’re told this was an “accident” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to ask questions about our transportation culture. In fact, it should cause us to ask even harder ones and demand even better answers.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Adam
Subscriber

That is honestly some of the worst victim-blaming drivel I have ever read in my life. Shame on Gresham Police.

Opus the Poet
Guest

This was a wreck (crash, whatever) that the driver was not at fault and had no way to avoid. Sometimes pedestrians do stupid things around cars, or bicycles. Sometimes cyclists do stupid things around pedestrians or cars.

We can’t blame drivers for the fact that cars kill, even when drivers are doing their best to not kill or injure anyone most of the time. The facts that cars are killing a larger number of pedestrians and cyclists every year means we need to do more to prevent cars from killing now that we have protected the occupants as much as is feasible.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Based on the known facts of the investigation, this is a terrible tragedy and the death is accidental. The kid crossed when he didn’t have the signal and the driver didn’t have time or space to alter her path. I understand your emotion but I get the sense that you want to place blame on something or someone other than accept that the victim was inattentive and/or made a poor choice. Traffic culture? Seriously?

Why must we always find a scapegoat? Mourn the victim and wish healing for his family, the driver that must live with this memory, and those traumatized by witnessing such a horrible demise. Sometimes, bad stuff just happens.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Speed limit should be 20 everywhere within city limits. If bikes can get around at 12mph, no reason cars can’t get around at 20mph.

Cory P
Guest
Cory P

I’m with Jonathan, Our road systems are designed, and right now they are designed for this kind of tragedy to happen. How many times can we use the term ‘unpreventable accident’ before we accept that it is completely preventable and that we choose to accept this outcome as a byproduct of car accessibility. Should this driver be locked up? I say no. Should we close burnside to car traffic? Again I say no. But we owe it to Jaafar and all of the other victims on our roadways to make real and hard change. Even if it’s expensive. Even if it’s difficult. Even if it’s politically unpopular. The victims at the very least deserve our effort.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

I believe 20 through transit stations is plenty, and during busy times 15 would be even better. I don’t know if it would have helped this young man, but I do know the car driver might have been able to stop or avoid better, the boy’s siblings might have been able to yank him back in, and if nothing else, the impact might have been below the threshold of killing him. A lot of “mights”, but any one of them would have made a life and death difference. Drive slow and aware!

Tom
Guest
Tom

Faded double line crosswalk markings are being replaced by proper bold zebra stipes, even in LA. Are we really getting behind LA? At least make a major high use crosswalk like this look like a real crosswalk that commands attention and respect.

spencer
Guest
spencer

Reduced speed is key to prevent these collisions. I drive,. Do I speed around children? Of course not. Kids are unpredictable. So I drive slowly around them. The speed was too high to avoid the pedestrian, period.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

“That happens because they, as people who use the roads primarily with an automobile, see themselves in her shoes. Then, when a driver is remorseful, cooperates with police and “remains at the scene,” a strong empathetic impulse takes over. Police agencies also foresee the public outcry that occurs when tragedies like this happen. The empathy combines with this public relations instinct and an inertia builds to establish a narrative that absolves everyone. The entire situation is then engulfed in the halo of sensitivity our culture gives to “horrible accidents.””

Well said, Jonathan. The “narrative that absolves everyone” is an exceedingly strong force in modern culture. And the “halo of sensitivity” an especially tempting grab in Portland.

Champs
Guest
Champs

And down that rabbit hole were wrung hands and recriminations. If this isn’t the bottom I might have to peace out.

rick
Guest
rick

Where is the land use zoning on Burnside in Gresham to allow mixed-use?

It was a crash.

rick
Guest
rick

Metal studded tires on cars don’t help to stop in normal weather.

SE
Guest
SE

I ride past the MAX stations at 122nd and also 102nd frequently. It is VERY common to see peds completely ignoring their safety to run to catch the train. Almost every time I pass there.
They don’t look at traffic, just run. Red light don’t slow them down. OR have their noses buried so deep in their smart phones that they are unaware of surroundings and are essentially blind.

I don’t know about this specific incident and am not blaming the victim, but am amazed that there are NOT more of these fatalities around the train stops.

Tim
Guest
Tim

Child runs into the street:
At 20 MPH driver stops – child gets a fright
At 25 MPH driver hits child at 5 MPH – Child runs home crying
At 30 MPH driver hits child at 15 sending the child to the hospital
At 40 MPH driver hits child at 35 and can tell the parents that they are sorry for the loss of your child…
– but you can’t expect me to drive slower
– but it was a very important text
– I’m just too busy and important to slow down

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I want facts, and the news story has very few. How are we supposed to know that the driver truly had no way to avoid him?

I was driving in my neighborhood two days ago when I came upon a couple of boys wearing baseball gloves and looking across the road. I slowed WAY down (~5mph), and as I approached them I saw that there was a 7-year-old boy on the other side of the road behind a truck, retrieving their baseball. If I had just driven along with the mindset that kids are responsible for their own lives and I have the right to drive the speed limit at all times, I might well have hit and killed him. But I saw kids playing at the edge of the road, and knew that it was dangerous to continue driving at a normal speed, oblivious to the risk.

Suppose you’re driving through this intersection here:

https://goo.gl/maps/WNK7UTkJwgo

and you see some elementary-school kids walking left to right through that island in the middle of the road.

Do you slow down? Or continue on at 35mph, the posted speed limit? How fast was this driver going? What safety measures can we hold drivers to in this situation?

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Jonathan, your paragraph starting “The activist in me cringes…” speaks volumes to me, helps me understand not only your view but cultural paradigm.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

The automobile is like a parasite. Over the last 100 years this parasite has taken over the brains of the host ( humans). In the natural world a parasite often affects the brain of the host creature so that it can feed on them and the host believes that it is good and beneficial. Our automobile parasite has most of us believing that we can’t live without it, that we must allow it in to every nook and crany of our society traveling at any speed it desires. This parasite feeds on our young, our vulnerable , our open space, our climate and ultimatly on our future but we seem unable to shake ourselves free of its tenticles. When will we shake off this beast?

AJ_Bikes
Subscriber
AJ_Bikes

Was the driver going above the posted speed limit? Was the driver using their phone at the time of the collision? Was the driver in any other way distracted? Was the driver so focused on other things that she failed to even see the children at the edge of the crossing? Or did the driver see them and ignore the possibility that they might fall or otherwise move into the roadway, continuing on their speedy way? If we cannot answer an emphatic “NO!” to every single one of those questions, then the driver is at least partially to blame.

For me, the scariest thing of all is that (with very rare exceptions), people who kill others with their vehicles get off with a slap on the wrist (if that), and then they’re back on the streets. This woman (and others who have killed with their vehicles, intentionally or through negligence) could drive past you, me, or any of our children at any time, and we can do nothing but hope against hope that this truly was a freak occurrence and that she does not drive in a manner which could lead to this happening again.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

When I was taught how to drive, many, many decades ago, I was taught that if there is any sign of children I should reduce my speed to a level that would allow me to not hit them if they strayed into the road and to scan the area with extreme focus to locate the little darlings. Surely we all were shown that famous bouncing ball video?

Anyhoo, if I had struck a child in a crosswalk that connects a Max station to an apartment complex I might just commit suicide before the day was out. It doesn’t matter that the child had a red light (especially a male, who has an 8% probability of being red/green color blind), a motorist should expect children to behave like children. There is really no excuse for such cars first, cars last, cars only approaches to road use.

Andy
Guest
Andy

We live near a high school and at night the students come sprinting across the street from behind some trees with no warning. They do not use the crosswalk signal which was installed for their use. My wife and I drive 10 mph there and, even then, have activated the ABS. So if a driver is going 20 mph, below the speed limit, is alert and competent, yet hits one of these kids, who is to blame? How are drivers who aren’t familiar with this street to know that even 10 mph is sometimes too fast? The same thing is true in a local park where the school track team trains. The posted speed limit of 15 mph is too fast for the conditions, given the fact that the kids are utterly oblivious, running out into the street without a glance. You cannot absolve pedestrians from all responsibility. The same goes for cyclists who make dangerous, illegal and irresponsible maneuvers. That said, all of us have a duty when driving a car to drive in a way that does not depend on vulnerable road users using good judgment. I’d rather go slow than hurt or kill someone. Sometimes even that isn’t enough though.

My question is whether the design of that intersection in Gresham is appropriate. I think the light rail configuration may be an issue.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Jonathan/ Michael – it may be an opportune time (sunny weather and this tragic event) to link to any past discussion of the ability of kid’s developing brains/ senses to perceive and react to fast objects such as vehicles.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I hope we have a thorough investigation that tells us exactly what speed the motorist was driving. We have plenty of people on this forum who are absolutely convinced that she was going way too fast. Remember the statistics on crash survivorship are averages. Not everyone who gets hit at 15 mph survives. Just because the pedestrian died, we should not assume the driver was going 40 mph.

I slow down when I’m in areas of pedestrian activity and give bicyclists a wide berth and I’m frustrated and even angry when motorists don’t do the same for me.

What travel speed do people on this forum believe is appropriate for a motorist passing a bus stop where not everyone is maintaining eye contact with motorists? Seriously. Is it ok to drive past at 20 or do you think it warrants 15, or 10, or 5 mph? Is it different during day or night? Does it depend on the age of those on the sidewalk?

Gresham Rider
Guest
Gresham Rider

I was at the Wilkes East neighborhood association meeting last night, located a few blocks from the crash site on the gresham/pdx border on 162nd. This news had not yet been reported when an older woman chimed in with a comment to a Reynolds School District official. The gist of her comment was “When I drive past the schools, there are all of these signs telling me to slow down. Why don’t they teach these kids to be responsible and stay out of the street?”

As I was wrestling with how to respond, the district superintendent sitting behind me chimed in with the fact that they just lost another one of theirs, referring to Jaafar, and to me that sadly but succinctly highlighted the problem with the perspective the woman in the crowd shared, namely that streets belong to cars, not communities.

My heart goes out to Jaafar’s family, teachers, and classmates, as well as to any future families destined to suffer yet another preventable loss like this one. This should not be.

SE
Guest
SE

Adam H.
That is honestly some of the worst victim-blaming drivel I have ever read in my life. Shame on Gresham Police.
Recommended 10

Adam: I think you need your own blog. constant posting shows that a job or something away from a keyboard may be beneficial. (unless your objective is to set some kind of record)

Beautiful weather, get out & ride. 🙂

gutterbunnybikes
Guest
younggods
Guest
younggods

Those roads are very narrow. I normally have to step into a crosswalk to get drivers to even consider stopping, but I would never do that here for fear of being hit.

When a road is so narrow you cannot take the first step into a crosswalk, then it’s obvious the speed limit needs to be low enough to compensate.

Personally I agree with many others here that there should be a city wide speed limit of 20-25mph.

SE
Guest
SE

Alan 1.0
Jonathan, your paragraph starting “The activist in me cringes…” speaks volumes to me, helps me understand not only your view but cultural paradigm.
Recommended 3

the word “cringe” , brought up an old story from my past.

I was working retail. Sold a bunch of stuff to a nice old (80’s ?) lady. She asked if I could take it all out to her car ? Sure, no problem. She had a walker.
So she opens the door and sits in …asks if I could put her legs in ? OKAY, I guess 🙁 , then asks me to place the R foot on the gas, L foot on the brake. I’m getting nervous.
I ask how she does it ? “Oh simple …I just push on my R knee to go, L knee to stop”
Nobody has addressed it yet, and I don’t think it pertains to this incident, BUT ….we need to drop the age where re-testing is needed to obtain a new license.

cringe ?? darned right, but I was young and didn’t know what else to do ?

Sam
Guest
Sam

This is a fair point to some degree, but it’s talking past the goal of Vision Zero as applied here in two ways:

1) The attitude that all crashes are preventable is designed to clarify thinking in the post-crash analysis, to push traffic design towards root causes. If someone’s car is struck by lightning as they have a stroke, but their car ran into a crowded market because they were on a weirdly placed freeway, we wouldn’t shrug at the randomness of it all, we would ask why freeway-speed vehicles that lost control could plow into a market.

2) The real goal (as I see it) of Vision Zero is actually to take as much human fault out of the equation as possible. It doesn’t matter that the driver wasn’t at fault: the traffic engineering creates normal behaviors and she was operating within that normal behavior.

Kids bolting across a street is a normal human behavior. Our traffic system has to account for that. If there are kids on foot nearby, maybe we should be questioning our precious 25+ MPH zones–the equivalent of a freeway near a market. (And I realize now and admit I have no idea what the speed limit of the road in question is, but 20 mph is, IMO, plenty fast for urban driving.)

A system that includes acts of God will always suffer faliure conditions. On a freeway if someone dies at the wheel of a heart attack, their car will zoom out of control within the parameters of a freeway, which are designed to protect pedestrians and bicyclists by keeping them well outside the area!

But you know what, let’s take a look at that freeway death. Would a doctor say that a heart attack was unpreventable in a well designed healthcare system? Or would the doctor say:

1) Good screening should minimize the number of people at risk for a heart attack who don’t know about it, who should therefore not be operating a motor vehicle at high speeds!
2) There are a lot of risk factors for heart attacks that could be greatly reduced if we took healthcare seriously in this country. If we reduce the overall number of heart attacks, the number of ‘unpreventable’ traffic incidents will also be reduced.

A doctor would look at your example and our health care system and say “This was preventable!”

It’s not that you’re wrong, technically, that there are unpreventable events. But this is a problem of systemic design, and Vision Zero is about establishing a very simple and very robust approach to designing traffic systems.

And again, in some sense it’s about escaping this idea of blame and fault. You can sigh and say bad things will always happen, but in a certain sense they stop being unpreventable once we have witnessed them, if we’re paying attention.

SE
Guest
SE

SD
Equating speed with freedom. This is a triumph of the automobile industry and is absolutely ridiculous.
Recommended 2

This is one thing that fries me. Car TV ads. The two worst offenders seem to be N*ssan & D*dge.
Barely a mention of : price, reliability, quality, fuel consumption , etc.

It’s all about POWER. Racing through the streets, doing burnouts, doughnuts and smoking the tires ..etc.

And you know what ? It works.

D*dge/R*m is one of the best selling trucks, BUT makes the bottom 5 list of WORST vehicles for sale in the US.

Niss*n on the other hand can’t seem to make cars in any other color besides RED. Besides making smoke circles, they love to skid in as close as possible to the spokesperson.

IMHO, those 2 (and more) contribute to the mindset of excessive speed (on the streets & roads )

brian
Guest
brian

The driver does not even need to hire a lawyer with Gresham PD working pro bono on her behalf.

SE
Guest
SE

Dan A
Am I remembering this wrong, or did drivers of large pickup trucks once drive our roads with an appropriate level of care? I saw two HD pickups this morning doing some pretty serious tailgating and swerving through traffic like they were trying to win a race.
Recommended 0

I’m on SE main at 142nd . 3 weeks ago two 18 y.o. immigrant (I have the police report) kids racing (tailgating) down our street collided when the lead one hit the brakes to mess with the tailing one.
After rear ending the lead, he turned and went through my chain link fence into the yard.
Tried to back out and run, but car wouldn’t start. $1,600 damage to my fence/yard.

We have kids playing the street quite often.

I have reported these problems to COP and the answer ? “We have aerial surveillance of your street, and nobody has ever been over 35mph there”

In other words “screw off, we don’t care”

It’s just a matter of time before a fatality. wish I could sue City Haul.

Matthew B
Guest
Matthew B

Adam H.
Okay, how about some different analogies:
If traffic violence was an infectious disease that was killing 30,000 people annually, the CDC would be frantically scrambling for a cure and issuing prevention notices.
If a business’ product was killing 30,000 people a year, there would be massive lawsuits form OSHA and calls for the CEO and leadership team to step down.
If any other transportation method was causing 30,000 deaths annually (say, rail) there would be calls from the FRA for a massive safely overhaul and installation of PTC nation-wide.
If bridge collapses were killing 30,000 people a year, USDOT would be pouring billions into fixing our crumbling infrastructure.
But why are 30,000 people dying from car crashes just a cost of doing business?
Recommended 3

Obesity, cigarettes, alcohol and firearms kill a lot of people every year. The processed and fast food industries, tobacco industry, alcohol industry, firearms industry and automobile industry spend a lot of lobbying dollars and form power PACs to ensure that the legal environment remains favorable to their products. Further, the firearms lobby has persuaded Congress to pass laws prohibiting the CDC from investigating firearms deaths in any meaningful way, and inhibiting those injured through use of their products to file product liability lawsuits. Welcome to America, this is business as usual. I for one, will not hear one word against our politicians and law enforcement officials, they’re the best money can buy.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Here is an interesting comparison to think about. If you were an employee driving a forklift at Lowes or Ikea and you accidentally hit and killed a customer because they unexpectedly stepped out in front of you while you were rushing from one side of the warehouse to the other. Would you be in big trouble? Would you be fired? Would you be criminaly and civily charged ? Would the managers of the store be making excuses as to why it was the customers fault? Why is our standard for care and driver responsibility around pedestrians so much different on our public streets?

SE
Guest
SE

Adam H.
When I took Driver’s Ed in high school, I was taught that “the pedestrian always has the right of way” even when crossing against the light. As a driver, you must assume that people will be disobeying the ped signal and drive accordingly – especially when it’s a kid.
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I agree , BUT Portland has been installing signaled crosswalks up & down 122nd.
I watch people running across , through traffic …within 50 feet of those marked crossings. I stop for them, but cringe as they play a dangerous Frogger game.
The homeless on their mtn. bikes do the same thing , run reds, cross anywhere. sometimes it seems like they have a “death wish”

KristenT
Guest
KristenT

In this case, “incident” is a better word than “accident”.

It doesn’t minimize the happening, or the tragedy, but doesn’t give the same air of “no one could have done anything to stop it from happening” that seems to excuse some of these crashes.

All collisions and crashes come from a series of decisions; except in the case of meteorite, earthquake, volcano or weather, there are no true “accidents” in this world.

Joe
Guest
Joe

always driver was not charged or sighted. WTF? so you can just run ppl down and have a police officer right it off?

Joe Mac
Guest
Joe Mac

Perhaps raised crosswalks would be a good start.

are
Guest

9watts
Are you suggesting that in countries where licenses are much harder to acquire they have less democracy than we here do?

i had assumed you were responding to paikiala’s comment as to what is politically possible. your response was in effect who cares what the people think.

i also think it should be much harder to obtain and much easier to lose the privilege of operating an automobile. but there are only a couple of ways of implementing this. probably it would be better to somehow alter the cultural mindset. but imposing the desired result by force is also possible, i guess.