Witnesses: Driver on cell phone when train hit

The driver of this car, Denis Pittman, was injured when a freight train hit the car in Beaverton, June 28, 2013 (Courtesy: Beaverton PD)
The driver of this car, Denis Pittman, was injured when a freight train hit the car in Beaverton, June 28, 2013 (Courtesy: Beaverton PD)

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KOIN) — A man had to be pulled from his Honda CRV after it was hit by a freight train loaded with rocks in Beaverton Friday morning.

At the scene of a collision between a train and car on the Portland & Western Railroad tracks near Southwest Tualatin Valley Highway and 140th Avenue in Beaverton on Friday, June 28, 2013,. (Robert Dingwall/KOIN 6 News)
At the scene of a collision between a train and car on the Portland & Western Railroad tracks near Southwest Tualatin Valley Highway and 140th Avenue in Beaverton on Friday, June 28, 2013,. (Robert Dingwall/KOIN 6 News)

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue (TVF&R) reports that the crash occurred at about 10:40 a.m. on the Portland & Western Railroad tracks at Southwest Tualatin Valley Highway and 139th Avenue.

Witnesses told Beaverton police that the driver, identified as 38-year-old Denis Pittman, appeared to be talking on a cell phone and did not notice the train. Pittman was driving west on Tualatin Valley Highway when he turned left into a driveway that crosses the tracks. The train struck the driver’s side of Honda, rolling it onto its top.

At the scene of a crash Friday, June 28, 2013, between a train and vehicle on the Portland & Western Railroad tracks near Southwest Tualatin Valley Highway and 140th Avenue. (Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue)
At the scene of a crash Friday, June 28, 2013, between a train and vehicle on the Portland & Western Railroad tracks near Southwest Tualatin Valley Highway and 140th Avenue. (Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue)

“We ran across the street, and the guy was hanging upside down unconscious,” witness Ron Dean told KOIN. “And we’re asking him, ‘Hey, are you okay? Are you okay?’ And he wasn’t responding, but he was breathing.”

Beaverton police said there is a stop sign at the driveway, but no crossing arms or lights.

“The witnesses are saying that the train honked its horn, that witnesses were waving at this guy, but that he appeared to be engaged in this cell phone conversation,” said Detective Sgt. Jim Shumway, a Beaverton police spokesperson. “And (he) crossed the tracks, and the train struck the car and flipped the car over on its top.”

Pittman was extricated from the car and stabilized by paramedics before being transported by ambulance to Oregon Health & Science University. He did not sustain any life-threatening injuries, Beaverton police confirmed, and was expected to be released from the hospital soon.

A Life Flight helicopter was initially called out, but was canceled because it was it coming from Longview, Wash., and deemed too far from the scene.

Pittman will be cited for failure to stop at a railroad signal and operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device.

According to Beaverton police, the 1,150-foot long train weighed 25 tons and was traveling an estimated 25 miles per hour at the time of the crash. The conductor was not hurt.

Tualatin Valley Highway was temporarily shut down between Murray Boulevard and Hocken Avenue, but has since reopened. However, it took several hours to clear the train from the scene.

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