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‘It was coming pretty fast’: Runner avoids being hit by erratic driver during string of SE Portland crashes

The driver ended up hitting multiple pedestrians and vehicles across dozens of blocks. One person is dead and five others were hospitalized.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Teresa Bergen was only hoping to get her three-mile run in when she came across the daunting hill that climbs Laurelhurst Park’s west side, near the park’s north edge.

Suddenly, she heard a car roaring behind her. Even though she was on the park’s pedestrian path, it’s not unusual for Bergen, a regular Laurelhurst runner, to hear city maintenance trucks as she treks through the space. Those vehicles usually slow down when they approach runners and walkers.

This vehicle was an SUV, not a maintenance truck. And it didn’t slow down.

“I was running up the path, wearing my hot pink jacket, which I usually think is safe because it has high visibility,” said Bergen, a Portland writer. “On this path, it’s usually wide enough for them to get around me.”

When it became clear that the car wasn’t going to slow down, Bergen scampered up an embankment, at, fortuitously, a steep spot where the car, had it chose to target her, could not have navigated the slope.

“It was coming pretty fast,” Bergen said. “There were so many fortunate things. I was on the right side of the path: On the left side, there’s a big drop-off, so I would have fallen down the hill. I didn’t have my dog, and I don’t know if I could have reeled him in fast enough. And, I don’t wear headphones when I run. If I did, I might not have even heard the car.”

Bergen’s account of the incident, at about 1 p.m., reveals what happened before the driver hit a pedestrian at Laurelhurst Park, then drove west on Southeast Stark Street, where the suspect eventually seemed to target a pedestrian at the corner of 19th and Washington Street.

He, according to one witness, struck that pedestrian, turned around and ran her over. The woman was taken to Oregon Health & Science University, where as KGW, a PBJ news partner, reported, she died later in the afternoon.

RELATED: 1 dead, 5 hospitalized after driver hits pedestrians, cars across dozens of blocks in SE Portland

The suspect, who allegedly struck five others, is in custody, according to Portland Police officials.

The rampage took place between Southeast 33rd Avenue, near where Bergen was nearly struck, and Southeast 13th Avenue. The suspect was captured after crashing his car on Southeast Pine near 18th Avenue and fleeing on foot. “Community members who witnessed the crash corralled the suspect until officers arrived on scene and took him into custody,” according to the police bureau.

The suspect has yet to be identified.

Bergen didn’t see any pedestrians struck by the driver but saw, as she left the park, one of the five other rampage victims being tended to by emergency personnel.

“I got home and I looked at the news and saw that it was deliberate,” she said. “And that's when it really freaked me out.”

Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.

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