MAX train hits wheelchair, kills mother, adult son

Accident in Gresham happened shortly before noon

Two people - a 66-year-old woman and a 48-year-old man -- died when this motorized wheelchair she was in was hit by a MAX Blue Line train near Gresham City Hall, Aug. 16, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Two people - a 66-year-old woman and a 48-year-old man -- died when this motorized wheelchair she was in was hit by a MAX Blue Line train near Gresham City Hall, Aug. 16, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — A mother and her adult son died in an accident after they deboarded a MAX train near Gresham City Hall shortly before noon Saturday.

Bertha Nellie Kelly, 66, and her 48-year-old son, John Paul Kelly, got off the eastbound MAX train around 11:35 a.m. They moved under the shelter, TriMet officials said, and it appears John Paul sat on his mother’s lap and hit the motorized control of her wheelchair.

That put them into the gap between the two eastbound MAX vehicles as the train was leaving. The operator did not see this happen and wasn’t aware of it until later, TriMet officials said.

Bertha Kelly died at the scene. John Paul Kelly died a short time later at OHSU.

A witness to the accident, named Zetta, told KOIN 6 News she could hear them yelling.

“She (the mother) was yelling, ‘Let me go! Let me go!'” Zetta said, “He was trying to drag on to the left side of her wheelchair arm, or her arm, but he’s tugging and he’s between her and the train. … He was in the wrong place next to the train, pulling somewhat towards the train with a wheelchair. He fell into the space between the two trains as they were picking up speed . He was right there, did not let go.”

Other witnesses told police John Paul jumped into his mother’s lap.

Neighborsof the Kellys told KOIN 6 News John Paul Kelly had a developmental disability.

TriMet does have surveillance cameras at the platform and will review the tapes to determine if anything was captured on video.

The Blue Line was disrupted for hours, but returned to normal service early Saturday evening.

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