Portland police warn of street racing dangers after driver hurt in crash

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Police say one person was injured in what appears to be a street racing crash on Marine Drive on May 6, 2018. KATU photo

Portland police issued a warning about the dangers of illegal street racing after they said a driver was taken to the hospital following an alleged street-racing crash Sunday night.

Calls came in at about 10 p.m. reporting that a car crashed into a pole near the intersection of North Marine Drive and Leadbetter Road.

Investigators said a driver was taken to the hospital in a private car before police and paramedics arrived. That driver is expected to survive.

Initial information shows that two drivers were speeding west on Marine Drive when one of the drivers turned into the other vehicle according to officers. Both cars had to be towed from the scene.

Police said it appeared to be an organized street-racing event, according to witnesses who left the area after the crash.

Marine Drive was closed for a short time while police investigated.

Rita Dirks, the night manager of the Portland French Bakery near the intersection, said she heard the drivers racing Sunday night.

"Huge gunning of engines -- I mean as loud as you can imagine," Dirks told a KATU reporter. "I looked out through the windows 'cause they were telling me that somebody was hurt."

By the time she called 911 she said police and ambulances were already there.

"The racing goes on every Sunday night and every Saturday night," Dirks explained. "It's never-ending."

She said it's been that way since the company moved there in 1997, with races drawing crowds of sometimes more than 1,000 people.

“It is frustrating when they’re in our parking lot and people are too intimidated to go out to their car on break or even to go home," Dirks said. "We've had a lady who called her husband because she doesn’t want to drive home when they’re racing or she’ll stay until they’re done.”

Portland police said street racing crashes have killed or hurt several people in recent years.

The agency put out a news release Monday saying in part:

"Drivers participating in the racing or assisting by blocking traffic on the roadway can be arrested and charged with a variety of crimes -- both misdemeanor and felony.

Street racing has contributed to several traffic deaths over the past few years, including:

  • December 4, 2015, 65-year-old Linda Johnston was killed when two motorcycle riders engaged in a race crashed into her car at Southeast 160th Avenue and Stark Street. Both riders were arrested and sentenced to prison.
  • January 23, 2016, 20-year-old Nick Alexandar Chernyavskiy died after crashing his motorcycle while racing another motorcycle rider on Northeast Airport Way near 145th Avenue.
  • March 6, 2016, 26-year-old Alexander Keppinger was critically injured in a crash on Northeast Glisan Street near 139th Avenue involving two drivers racing. Keppinger died a few weeks later.
  • April 21, 2017, 19-year-old Daniel Kharlamov died after a high-speed crash on Southeast Powell Boulevard near 37th Avenue.

Drivers who seek to race their cars or motorcycles are encouraged to find a safer, legal alternative to blocking public roadways and putting themselves and others a risk of personal injury. Several opportunities exist at the Portland International Raceway for drivers interested in using the track.

The Portland Police Bureau is committed to working with our partners in government and the community to create safer streets and work towards reducing, and eventually eliminating, traffic fatalities as part of Vision Zero."