Manslaughter charge for driver accused of killing bicyclist on St. Johns Bridge

Driver in bridge fatal crash in court

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The driver accused of striking and killing a bicyclist on the St. Johns Bridge has been indicted on a new charge in connection to the death.

Joel Aaron Schrantz, 42, is accused of hitting and killing 55-year-old Mitchell Todd York. of Northeast Portland, on the St. John's Bridge at 11:25 a.m. on Oct. 29. Police say York was a dedicated bicyclist who logged more than 500 miles per week.

Schrantz was indicted for second-degree manslaughter on Nov. 8 and booked into jail on $250,000 bail.

Schrantz, who lives in North Portland, has been convicted of 31 driving infractions in the past. He was arrested Oct. 29 and booked on a charge of criminally negligent homicide.

According to court documents, Schrantz was convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in 2014. He also has 11 separate convictions for driving with a suspended license.

Schrantz's history of driving infractions also includes eight convictions for driving without insurance, two for speeding, two for operating without the required lighting equipment, two for failing to signal on a turn or stop, and one for each of the following: unauthorized use of a vehicle, failure to renew auto registration, failure to obey a traffic control device, operation without a rearview mirror and failure to drive within a lane.

A probable cause statement prepared by the district attorney's office details a conversation Sgt. David Abrahamson had with Schrantz after he struck the cyclist.

"Defendant chuckled as he stated that he has been issued approximately 30-40 driving while suspended tickets in last 20 years because he has never reinstated his driver license."

In addition, Schrantz has other criminal convictions, including for burglary, theft and identity theft.

According to investigators, Schrantz was driving a 1995 Toyota 4Runner and stopped at the red light on Northwest Bridge Avenue, waiting to cross over the bridge and into North Portland. When the light turned green, he sped onto the bridge and began to fishtail.

"Schrantz failed to maintain control of his vehicle as it slid into the westbound lanes of the bridge, where he collided with the bicycle rider who was riding westbound across the bridge," police said in a press release.

York was allegedly knocked off of his bike and landed under the front of another vehicle.

When officers arrived, they found York critically injured on the west end of the bridge. He died at the scene.

The rear tires on Schrantz' SUV were bald and had no traction, something he admitted to police, according to the probable cause statement. He said he buys $500 vehicles regularly to replace ones that break down.

"Investigators learned that Schrantz was aware of the bad condition of his tires and other vehicle equipment issues making the 4Runner unsafe to drive," the release said. 

Police said Schrantz was not impaired by drugs or alcohol. 

According the probable cause statement, Schrantz declined to say why he never took his foot off the accelerator as it fishtailed "over a significant amount of distance." He said he never saw the cyclist until just before the impact.

The bridge was closed for several hours during the investigation.

Portland police noted this was the 35th traffic fatality in Portland this year. 

The St. Johns Bridge is a four-lane bridge with no dedicated bike lanes, although the outside lanes are "sharrows," where bikers share the lanes with vehicles. Many bicyclists use the bridge to travel from the east side of town to the popular biking roads along Highway 30, Germantown Road, Sauvie Island and in Forest Park. 


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