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An innocent man on the sidewalk died because two drivers collided on East Burnside

Posted by on September 15th, 2020 at 3:13 pm

Intersection of 18th and Burnside where two drivers collided. One of their cars slid onto the sidewalk of The East Burn in the upper left.

A violent collision between two drivers on East Burnside Street in the Buckman neighborhood on Friday night left an innocent man dead.

Chris Copeland.
(Photo: Facebook)

Chris Copeland wasn’t in either car. He was on the sidewalk in front of his workplace, The East Burn Public House, a popular neighborhood eatery on the southeast corner of 18th and Burnside.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, it happened around 7:00 pm Friday night. That’s when an 18-year old who was under the influence of intoxicants failed to stop at a stop sign while driving southbound in his Subaru Forester. The Subaru driver was then hit by someone driving a Toyota Tacoma truck eastbound on Burnside. The impact shoved the Subaru across the intersection and up onto the sidewalk in front of East Burn.

Copeland was pinned up against the building. He suffered severe injuries and died later at the hospital. He was 36 years old.

The driver of the Subaru was arrested after a breath test revealed his blood-alcohol content was 0.12%. He’s been charged with Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants, Reckless Driving, and three counts of Reckless Endangerment. Two of the people in the car with the driver initially fled the scene before police arrived. One of them returned later and was interviewed as a witness.

Driver view headed south toward Burnside. Notice stop sign in upper right. The East Burn is in upper left corner.


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Amateur reconstruction of what happened.

Copeland was from Indianapolis, Indiana and appears to have moved to Portland in 2014. He had a cat named Zeppelin that he loved hanging out with (if the numerous photos and videos of it on his Facebook page are any judge). One of his friends remembered him on Facebook by sharing,

“We lost the brightest fucking light, the sweetest soul, the most solid person we’ve ever met. I’ve never met anyone who worked harder or cared deeper. His sense of humor was twisted and beautiful. You’ve made an impression on all of us Chris. We will be forever better having known you.”

Copeland was tight with his co-workers at The East Burn. A phone call to the restaurant today was met with a recorded message. “We will be closed for the next week due to a fatality car accident that happened at The East Burn.”

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From a 2017 PBOT report on the East Burnside Safety Project.

East Burnside is part of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s “High Crash Network” because it has a higher than average amount of serious injury and fatal collisions. According to city data the section between 14th and 32nd Avenue has twice the amount of crashes that involve people on foot (than the citywide average), 50% more collisions at intersections, and twice the rate of reckless and distracted driving-related crashes.

In 2014 PBOT started a project that aimed to make the street safer. They lowered the speed from 35 to 30 mph, added several new crossings with median islands and swapped one westbound travel lane for a center lane. Our report on the project detailed why on-street auto parking was maintained on both sides of the street. Another project in 2016 added more safety features.

A 2017 report from PBOT showed the changes reduced collisions and speeds, but this destination-filled section of Burnside is still claiming lives. Two people died within blocks of Friday’s crash in 2019. In May a motorcycle rider died in a collision at NE 17th. And in November someone was killed by a driver while walking near 22nd and Burnside.

Chris Copeland is the 35th person killed while using Portland streets so far this year. That’s four fewer than the number we had last year by this date and 13 more than we had by this date in 2018. See more on our Fatality Tracker.

If you’d like to share a memory of Chris that his family will read, you can do so here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and 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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Alain L.
Guest
Alain L.

Really sad, I read about this in the PPB Bulletin. Reminds me of some of the crossings on NE MLK, where drivers often jump east-west across north-south traffic. Much safer to cross at the location of a traffic light. Maybe diverters are needed to prevent these types of crossings, though may likely cause conflicts with emergency vehicle turn radius, etc. Anyway, just terrible news.

hamiramani
Subscriber

Very sad news in already trying times. When will “leaders” get serious about making streets friendly for people? Enough planning for cars. We need some bold changes.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Third fatality on this stretch of Burnside in less than a year? Yikes. Time to calm that car sewer even more.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Poor fella.

Todd/Boulanger
Guest

Sorry to read and hear such news about another innocent street death…RIP Copeland.

And in an all too similar case that week…a Vancouver pedestrian killed by a likely intoxicated driver (out on a skipped bail)…while crossing Mill Plain crosswalk.
https://www.columbian.com/news/2020/sep/14/woman-accused-in-fatal-hit-and-run-crash-appears-in-court/

Bicycling Al
Guest
Bicycling Al

Obviously intoxication was at fault but how fast was the Tacoma driver going to hurl a 3500 pound vehicle into a building? Presumably no braking was done prior to impact?

I personally witnessed automated emergency braking deploy and avoid a collision when the driver would have mindlessly proceeded through a red light otherwise. AEB should be a required feature on all new vehicles.

Jon
Guest
Jon

With so little traffic enforcement in Portland these days I’m beginning to think that the only way to get arrested for DUI is when the driver is in an accident bad enough that they can’t just drive away afterwards. I’m guessing things are not any better than 2 years ago when DUI arrests dropped by over 50%. https://www.wweek.com/news/courts/2018/09/05/portland-arrests-for-drunken-driving-have-dropped-thats-because-police-cut-back-on-traffic-stops/

buildwithjoe
Guest

Burnside remains designed for death. We have the money for freeways, but not speed cameras. I bet this never would have happened if Burnside was 20mph. It should be. This never would have happened if this reckless driver had been given a few speeding tickets by speed cameras. I think it’s safe to assume he was a pattern reckless driver.

We need automated speed cameras all over this city.
We can ban facial recognition and admit that capture of deadly drivers plates is a must.

Please mention these patterns. 6/15/2015… Ben Carlson was a pedestrian on the sidewalk of Burnside when Douglas James Walker of Beaverton broke several laws and Doug’s car jumped on the sidewalk and killed Ben and seriously injured his Partner Bridget. Cops did not cite the driver. DA did not ask for any citations. Traffic division said they will not cite the driver. So end result is no ticket. None. Never. I called these offices every 2 weeks for months… Mayor Charlie Hales had staff who finally answered my email and they said “no laws were broken” to explain the lack of citations. Search the hashtags #BenCarlsonPDX on twitter, or #zeroCitation

Dustin Finney was killed by a drunk driver and deadly design. There is near zero enforcement of deadly driving. A few cement islands are just empty words to keep people in their elected office and city job.

How many Mad Moms demanding action and familes for safe streets must we create to end the slaughter. Answer is zero. Vision zero. We have a plan that works in other countries where deaths are now zero for the whole year and much larger populations. We just have to put actions behind the empty words of our lawmakers.

call Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (503)986-1200 demand she cut back most of the $12 billion on the mega freeway budget being spent over the next 5 years.

Here is a list of mega projects, and their project numbers and a few videos. All in my google doc.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FIGubOtI5dhM1POt849W8Z_YPbyfSnKTUBZzpby77hU/edit?usp=sharing

Jeik
Guest
Jeik

The curb ramps are placed so that most of the corner has no curb, which maybe would have slowed down the vehicle as it moved on to the sidewalk. Looks like the engineers were avoiding the fire extinguisher and other street furniture. Ramps are not in a great location for actually crossing the street either. Disappointing (and now tragic) that the city would rebuild the corner and not put in a curb bulb or position the ramps correctly.

squareman
Subscriber

Jonathan, could you do a retrospective review of the VRU law? Even searching on your site, I can find only one definitive mention of it being put to use in 2013. One time since it was passed in 2007!?

https://bikeportland.org/tag/vulnerable-roadway-user-law

Max
Guest
Max

I ride through this intersection on 18th both North and Southbound basically daily and it’s pretty terrifying. Drivers on Burnside are practically never looking for cross traffic, a huge number of drivers act like you don’t have a right to even cross Burnside. If you’re lucky enough to get one lane of traffic to stop almost inevitably someone tries to blast past in the adjacent lane.

While the drunk driver is clearly at fault, unfortunately it’s so easy to imagine this exact scenario playing out without anyone being drunk and drivers on Burnside just acting how they do.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Usually in these cases the driver will be back drinking and driving soon. Drunk driving has very high recidivism, regardless of treatment. Typically only on the fifth conviction does the drunk driver actually loose the drivers license.

The DA could be proactive and save the lives of future victims by offering to trade license revocation instead of jail time on the first offense. Why not offer a deal for permanent lifetime revocation of the Oregon drivers license, with no possibility of reinstatement. Plus a permanent lifetime ban on obtaining an Oregon vehicle registration, with no possibility of reinstatement. If ever found driving in Oregon, then the jail time would kick back in.

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Burnside has 6 lanes of cars. The design choice to maintain parking, speed and car capacity on Burnside increases the chance that crashes will occur at higher speeds. PBOT could have/can easily narrow the street by expanding the sidewalk, install protected bike lanes and keep two lanes of car traffic. There are streets all over the city where PBOT’s design choices often prioritize speed and capacity. An increase in unsafe conditions is the result. When someone makes an unsafe decision such as the person with the DUI above, the results can be a lot different when streets are designed for safety, not parking, speed and car capacity.

mark
Guest
mark

I agree that a lower speed limit on Burnside combined with automated enforcement could have provided a better outcome.

I will assert that better parenting would have prevented this from happening at all. The 18-year-old driver could a student who graduated from nearby Grant High School just this June, still living at home with his parents. He had access to a car, and was driving around with two passengers, who may not even live in his household. He was away from the house long enough to get drunk, or he left the house after already drinking.

Did the parents say anything like:

“Gee son, we’re in the middle of a pandemic; You shouldn’t be in a small enclosed space like an automobile with your friends.”

“Gosh Aidan, our air quality today is ‘hazardous’ on the AQI. You really shouldn’t go outside at all.”

“Boy, if I ever catch you drinking and driving, there will be hell to pay.”

I realize that this is pure speculation, but so are the other comments. I know that at 18, the driver is legally an adult, and should be responsible for his own actions, but I have to wonder how the sense of entitlement that allows these extremely poor decisions to be made was created in the first place.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Obvious question, was the Tacoma speeding? The speed limit in that area is 25mph, if memory serves. However, motorists regularly drive 35mph or more on that stretch. Clearly the Subaru driver had no right being on the road, but for the Tacoma to push the Subaru that far and pin a pedestrian, speed was definitely a factor.

My sympathy to friends and family of Chris.

Dave
Guest
Dave

It would help for all media to drop mincing, timid expressions like “alleged possible intoxicated driver” and instead refer to these creatures as something like “homicidal booze fiends.” Creating greater intolerance of DUI would be an excellent way to move society along.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

This is so sad.

With the increase in outdoor dining, even on busy streets, it seems we are putting more people in venerable positions in relation to fast moving traffic. Would placing bollards along the curb, especially near corners help? These look a bit flimsy, but Paris seems to love protecting sidewalks and cafe seating with them: https://www.google.com/maps/@48.857401,2.3574446,3a,90y,175.63h,60.92t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sN6x2__7XxheZeeEE5SNP3g!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

X
Guest
X

This is a tragedy for Chris, his family and friends, and anyone who leaves their house, ever. This could happen to anyone because:
*Motor vehicles are routinely overpowered and give an illusion of safety and control that is clearly false. In this crash the drinking driver was arrested but to my mind the other driver who was almost certainly speeding was equally to blame (if not more). I’ve seen some serious car crashes on surface streets but none of them projected a vehicle out of the bounds of the intersection to impact a building with such force. I would not be surprised to find out the pickup was doing 50+ mph.
*We bar young people from drinking even in situations where it might be relatively safe (with family, in regulated businesses) but it’s just not that hard for kids to get alcohol or drugs which they can use unobserved in private places. Places such as cars which our society allows them to control at the age of 16.
That’s five years before they can legally drink. I say relatively safe because I’m aware that alcohol is a drug with dangerous potential.
*The Vulnerable Road User law on the books is currently interpreted in a way that negates its stated purpose.

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

I totaled my car in nearly this exact same collision in 2003. Only difference was I was heading west on Burnside, and the guy I hit was trying to dart across at 17th. I see nothing has changed.

James S
Guest
James S

While 99% of the blame is the drunk driver…

Why is there no painted stop bar? Why is there no marked crosswalk on all sections? Can Portland not afford paint?

Vincent Dawans
Guest
Vincent Dawans

Meanwhile we have this crash @ 65th and Foster reported on Reddit.
https://www.reddit.com/r/Portland/comments/iu88j4/behind_plaid_pantry_on_65th_and_foster/
Luckily it doesn’t appear anybody was hurt. Frightening none-the-less. How do we protect pedestrians from these monster vehicles? In a sane world we would ban these vehicles from our cities or at least require commercial licences, permits and additional insurance. My family in Europe always ask me wether I am scared of guns in America. In reality, it’s not guns I am scared of, but these insanely large vehicles driven by irresponsible drivers.

w
Guest
w

Obviously PBOT works within its budget but some of their street re-designs come off as “lipstick on a pig.” Where’s the big, transformative moves? There seems like there’s a lot of effort in safety or stormwater redesigns that obtain marginal results, and even then the streets are kind of ugly and utilitarian looking after they’re done with them.

I wish there was a larger movements for beautiful boulevards and streets (like multi-way boulevards) in this city. Imagine Burnside was more like a boulevard you see in Barcelona or Paris, with large street tree, bike lanes, wider sidewalks and less space ceded to cars (and overall less speeding). Crosswalks meeting two lanes of traffic (w/o streetlights) is dangerous.

Portland’s street designs are so hodge-podge design wise. Outside of the transit mall Downtown, our streets are pretty boring here.

SRB
Guest
SRB

As a regular walker, this story makes me cringe. What a preventable waste of a young man’s life. Condolences to Mr. Copeland’s family and community…and if anyone is to be scrutinized, let’s start calling parents and their indulgent, hands-off methods into question. WTF: your 18 year old is out on a drunk-driving rampage at suppertime? Really? Six years ago this knucklehead and his buddies were 12 year-olds. How do they degenerate so fast? How’s fault is that?

Pickled rhubarb
Guest
Pickled rhubarb

I worked at east burn for one night in the kitchen. Worst kitchen experience ever. God rest this warriors soul. One last smoke break.