An innocent man on the sidewalk died because two drivers collided on East Burnside

An innocent man on the sidewalk died because two drivers collided on East Burnside

Intersection of 18th and Burnside where two drivers collided. One of their cars slid onto the sidewalk of The East Burn in the upper left.

A violent collision between two drivers on East Burnside Street in the Buckman neighborhood on Friday night left an innocent man dead.

Chris Copeland.
(Photo: Facebook)

Chris Copeland wasn’t in either car. He was on the sidewalk in front of his workplace, The East Burn Public House, a popular neighborhood eatery on the southeast corner of 18th and Burnside.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, it happened around 7:00 pm Friday night. That’s when an 18-year old who was under the influence of intoxicants failed to stop at a stop sign while driving southbound in his Subaru Forester. The Subaru driver was then hit by someone driving a Toyota Tacoma truck eastbound on Burnside. The impact shoved the Subaru across the intersection and up onto the sidewalk in front of East Burn.

Copeland was pinned up against the building. He suffered severe injuries and died later at the hospital. He was 36 years old.

The driver of the Subaru was arrested after a breath test revealed his blood-alcohol content was 0.12%. He’s been charged with Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants, Reckless Driving, and three counts of Reckless Endangerment. Two of the people in the car with the driver initially fled the scene before police arrived. One of them returned later and was interviewed as a witness.

Driver view headed south toward Burnside. Notice stop sign in upper right. The East Burn is in upper left corner.

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Amateur reconstruction of what happened.

Copeland was from Indianapolis, Indiana and appears to have moved to Portland in 2014. He had a cat named Zeppelin that he loved hanging out with (if the numerous photos and videos of it on his Facebook page are any judge). One of his friends remembered him on Facebook by sharing,

“We lost the brightest fucking light, the sweetest soul, the most solid person we’ve ever met. I’ve never met anyone who worked harder or cared deeper. His sense of humor was twisted and beautiful. You’ve made an impression on all of us Chris. We will be forever better having known you.”

Copeland was tight with his co-workers at The East Burn. A phone call to the restaurant today was met with a recorded message. “We will be closed for the next week due to a fatality car accident that happened at The East Burn.”

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From a 2017 PBOT report on the East Burnside Safety Project.

East Burnside is part of the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s “High Crash Network” because it has a higher than average amount of serious injury and fatal collisions. According to city data the section between 14th and 32nd Avenue has twice the amount of crashes that involve people on foot (than the citywide average), 50% more collisions at intersections, and twice the rate of reckless and distracted driving-related crashes.

In 2014 PBOT started a project that aimed to make the street safer. They lowered the speed from 35 to 30 mph, added several new crossings with median islands and swapped one westbound travel lane for a center lane. Our report on the project detailed why on-street auto parking was maintained on both sides of the street. Another project in 2016 added more safety features.

A 2017 report from PBOT showed the changes reduced collisions and speeds, but this destination-filled section of Burnside is still claiming lives. Two people died within blocks of Friday’s crash in 2019. In May a motorcycle rider died in a collision at NE 17th. And in November someone was killed by a driver while walking near 22nd and Burnside.

Chris Copeland is the 35th person killed while using Portland streets so far this year. That’s four fewer than the number we had last year by this date and 13 more than we had by this date in 2018. See more on our Fatality Tracker.

If you’d like to share a memory of Chris that his family will read, you can do so here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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