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Woman killed in Beaverton bike lane last week lost her brother to Portland hit-and-run last year

Posted by on December 7th, 2017 at 10:20 am

Stanley and Helen Grochowski.
(Photo Left: Portland Police Bureau/Photo right: Susan Putnam-Jensen)

When I first heard about the fatal collision in Beaverton near Southridge High School last week I was sad. But that was before I made a heartbreaking realization.

These siblings were both killed by people driving cars within 15 months of each other while using our streets under their own power.

On the evening of November 30th a teenager driving an SUV hit a 63-year-old woman who police say was walking her bike in a bike lane on SW 125th Avenue when she was hit.

After being sad at that news, my next feeling was outrage that the police (and the media who so often parrot their statements as fact) were so quick to absolve the driver. “There was nothing he could do to avoid striking her,” was the statement made at the scene and the soundbite that made the news.

Without further reporting and investigation it’s hard to know exactly what happened (Did she dismount to avoid leaves or debris in the bike lane? How fast was the teenager driving? How did the teenager’s car have such a huge dent in it if he was going a safe speed for those conditions?); but I don’t think it’s fair or professional when police make definitive statements with such haste.

Fortunately KOIN did a follow-up story with comments from a good friend of the victim so we could learn more about her life.

But there was something else that stuck with me about this collision. The name of woman who died is Helen Grochowski. That last name that sounded familiar. A few days passed and I kept reading coverage of the crash while my hunch about her name wouldn’t leave my head. Yesterday I finally thought more deeply about it occurred to me: I know that name from another fatal collision that happened about one mile from my house in August 2016. I looked up my story and sure enough, the names matched.

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65-year-old Stanley Grochowski was hit and killed by a person driving a car as he walked in a marked crosswalk across North Greeley Avenue at Bryant Street. The driver sped away and left him there to die. Neighbors posted a flyer on a nearby telephone pole and painted a ghostly stencil to memorialize him. We learned from reports that he was houseless at the time he was hit. We later learned drug abuse had contributed to his hard times. His nephew told KPTV news that Stanley, “Had a rough life,” but that “he was equal to everyone else and didn’t deserve to be left on the street.”

With the same last name and similar ages I had find out if there was some relation. I connected with a friend of Helen Grochowski’s via Facebook. This friend confirmed it: Helen and Stanley were brother and sister. Now when I look at their photos side-by-side the resemblance is unmistakable.

These siblings were both killed by people driving cars within 15 months of each other while using our streets under their own power.

Helen rode her bike everywhere, her friend told me. She used it because she couldn’t afford car insurance. Like Stanley, she was just trying survive. Neither of them deserved to die.

Friends and family of Helen Grochowskie will gather for a funeral on Saturday.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Dan ArayJamiesusan putnam-jensenBradWagon Recent comment authors
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rick
Guest
rick

So horrible. Heartbreaking.

BradWagon
Subscriber

Still can’t believe the mindset of “oh well, nothing he could do”. I ride that section of road every day on my way home and if you can’t see someone walking in the bikelane or attempting to cross the street you need to not be driving, not even considering it is absurd he was already moving that fast after pulling out of the parking lot just 400 ft prior to hitting her.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

For hundreds of thousands of years humans have walked the earth without having to fear a quick and unexpected death from nowhere ( except an occasional Tiger or Bear). I am not sure that when autos first appeared people knew what was coming, that most of the land we humans have called home for millenia would be colonized by huge, speeding metal boxes. Now we arrived at the point where no-one is safe from instant death unless they are deep in the forest or indoors. They advise us to be vigilant, wear bright colors, carry a light like each time we leave home as if we are going to war, and only skill and luck we keep us from an untimely demise at the hands of the motorized wraiths that stalk us in the night, or day. I wish we could go back in time at vote on this takeover of the planet. I think the price we paid was too high for few decades of convenience, comfort and imagined freedom.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Beaverton is becoming very interesting place to ride with all the traffic NOW, most follow too close and don’t understand bike lane law or don’t care.. R.I.P 🙁 be aleart if you ride in Beaverton.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

poor family.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

There are a number of things I find curious about the description.

For starters, the news report says, “according to witnesses, she was going between the bike path and the roadway as she walked.” What exactly does that mean?

SUV appears to have damage on the left side but positioning of the vehicle in the pic given that they’d just come out of parking lot indicates they turned right.

Given that the driver couldn’t have even gone one block, how could have he had no way to stop or see the victim?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

“Witnesses say there was no way for the student to avoid hitting the woman.”

You could say the same thing about every crash where the driver fails to watch out for and anticipate the movement of humans.

Dave
Guest
Dave

High school student? Male? My only question is iPhone, Samsung, or Motorola. It’s reasonable to assume he was on the phone, guilt should be assumed and innocence made to be proven in this case.

wsbob
Guest

Maus…if you haven’t already tried contacting the Beaverton Police to clarify from them what’s been reported they’re saying in the kxl and koin stories, why not call them up and ask them?

KXL story says a couple things directly related to the question of whether or not the police already have concluded, as you seem to think they have, that the person driving could not have done anything to avoid the collision.

KXL story reports close to the top: “…Witnesses say there was no way for the student to avoid hitting the woman. So far, no names have been released. …”.

Later in this story, it reports, following, ‘More from Beaverton Police’: “…The deceased was not riding her bike but was walking with it. According to witnesses, she was going between the bike path and the roadway as she walked. The driver saw her walking her bike and then she was in front of his car, and there was nothing he could do to avoid striking her. …”

The story goes on to report from the same police statement, that: “…It does not look to be criminal, and the Washington County Crash Reconstruction Team (CART) is on scene doing the diagram and assisting in the investigation, and this is standard with any fatal vehicle crash. …”.

The KOIN 6 story reports, with a quote: “…A police spokesman said based on what the driver and witness said, “there was nothing he could do to avoid striking her.” …”.

Maybe the police could have chosen words for the on camera interview, to better indicate that a more thorough investigation was ongoing. At any rate, the driver has not yet been charged with a traffic related crime or violation, and initial investigation has not shown that a crime has been committed. Until it’s been found that he’s guilty of a crime or violation, if it turns out he is in fact guilty, he can’t be forgiven for having committed a crime or violation.

PeaDub
Subscriber
PeaDub

“The driver saw her walking her bike and then she was in front of his car, and there was nothing he could do to avoid striking her.”

So what, she just teleported in front of the car? There’s no clear explanation of what happened; making statements with such certainty when the scenario hasn’t been explained is a bad law enforcement practice. Same thing for the pedestrian that was killed on Farmington in Aloha a few weeks ago. Super frustrating.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Subpoena the phone records.

Joe
Guest
Joe

still blows my mind that every report sides with the drivers story, shows we have a divided process.

Kristi Finney Dunn
Guest
Kristi Finney Dunn

I remember meeting her at the vigil that the neighborhood association had for Stanley shortly after he was killed. She was devastated. This is so utterly heartbreaking.

Sukho Goff
Guest
Sukho Goff

Unbelievably sad in Biketown USA 🙁

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

So, from the statements in the story, it sounds like she was walking her bike in the bike lane, and then stepped out suddenly. If that’s the case, of course they will say there was nothing the driver could do. What gets me (and what has started to become more and more irritating as I ride), is that this is exactly why cars are supposed to give extra space when passing. She could have slipped/tripped on something, been trying to get around a hazard, etc… I’ve been gradually getting to where I prefer riding on streets without bike lanes (with some shoulder space) unless the lanes are buffered. On non-bike lane streets I seem to get more space from passing cars. When I’m in a bike lane, it’s like drivers feel that as long as they’re in their lane it doesn’t matter how close they are to me. It gets really stressful if I have to hug the edge to stay out of door zones or dodge debris and/or storm drains that take up all but a few inches of the lane. Most drivers don’t account for this and assume they can continue by without modifying their chosen vector. So yeah, I’m sure there was nothing he could do *at the moment she left the bike lane*, but there was definitely something he could have done prior (make sure he was giving adequate passing space) that most likely would have prevented this.

esther2
Guest
esther2

i’m not getting a clear picture at all of what happened here. Did she have the right of way?

HJ
Guest
HJ

Here’s my thing. Regardless of whether she “swerved”, the thing is she was in front of him and he admitted to having seen her. If it were another car there would be some sort of charges being filed. When you rear-end someone (essentially what happened) it’s almost always considered 100% the fault of the driver behind, not the one in front. So why is this being so completely ignored every time it’s anything but another car?

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Excerpt from one news story:

“The driver saw her in the bike lane just before the impact. He noticed she was wearing dark clothing and carrying an umbrella. He looked left at the traffic light, then heard the sound of his vehicle striking her.

Evidence suggests she left the bike lane and entered the traffic lane, where she was hit, Rowe said.

“There is no evidence that the driver was speeding,” Rowe said. “His cell phone was checked, and there was no calls or texts until after the collision. There is no evidence that the driver did anything that directly contributed to this tragedy.” ”

There were witnesses, though it is unclear what information was received from them. I’ll do some more reading.

Barbara Larrain
Guest
Barbara Larrain

Walking or riding in bike lane, then gets hit and nothing. So any of us hit while bike in a bike lane and it’s ok even if they know we are there.

oliver
Guest
oliver

He saw the person, and noticed she was wearing dark clothing.

ergo, high vis is not necessary to be seen.

BradWagon
Subscriber

“The driver told police he SAW HER walking in the bike lane just before the moment of impact. He said he LOOKED TO THE LEFT at the traffic light (he wasn’t at the light yet) and then heard and felt the impact of striking her.”

“The driver SAW HER walking her bike and then she was in front of his car, and there was nothing he could do to avoid striking her.”

“Witnesses say there was no way for the student to avoid hitting the woman. ” BUT ALSO “Investigators say there were no witnesses who saw the moment the woman was hit.”

Get you crap together Beaverton Police Department. Kid admitted to seeing her, told you he took his eyes off the roadway, then hit her… but “WELP NOTHING HE COULD DO”. B.S.

Justin
Guest
Justin

You really need to post a link to pictures of children playing with puppies at the end of articles like this. Or I need to mix a cocktail before I come to bike portland or really anywhere in 2017…

Susan Putnam -Jensen
Guest
Susan Putnam -Jensen

I’ve know Helen for over 30 years. She has always exercised and watched her weight. She never drank , smoked, or did drugs. She was pretty strong gal. Helen was very vigilant about her bodily associations adjacent to other objects. As an artist she was very observant . She was so watchful of people in fact she had many opportunities to be empathetic to hurting people . She also did some modeling which also made her aware of her appearance and surroundings . Helen was actually proud of her old bike. I remember years ago we rode some pretty long rides but she carried on this habit into her senior years. Such a good person just trying to survive . Tears down my face . Rip my friend.

susan putnam-jensen
Guest
susan putnam-jensen

I’m also wondering why when she lived in her old place she had no problems but in this area there was a problem. Wondering if there is a difference in pedestrian access. Maybe could be improved.

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

For those of you saying helen was probably on drugs or alcohol. She was an extremely devout Christian who never used either. She was my aunt. Until she had to give up her car, one of her main purposes of having one was to transport elderly people from her church to and from doctors appointments. She always gave what she had to somebody who was in more need than her.

ray
Guest

If you’re not able to slow down for someone YOU SAW, you were driving TOO FAST for conditions.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I wonder if the ‘investigation’ is complete…