BEAVERTON, Ore. – A man talking on his cell phone while driving was hit by a 25,000-ton train he didn’t see coming as he crossed tracks in Beaverton, according to a police spokesman.
The driver, Dennis Pittman, was taken to a nearby hospital but did not suffer serious injuries, according to Sgt. Jim Shumway with the Beaverton Police Department. Pittman was expected to be released from the hospital on Friday afternoon.
A witness said Pittman was initially knocked unconscious, then came to when firefighters arrived.
"He barely got clipped so he did pretty well," said witness Tim Schroeder. "I'm sure he doesn't feel like that right now."
Pittman also faces two traffic citations from Beaverton police for not stopping at a railroad signal and for operating a motor vehicle while using his phone, according to Shumway.
Witnesses told police that Pittman was driving on Tualatin Valley Highway on Friday around 10:40 a.m. when he turned into a commercial development near SW 139th. The driveway crossed railroad tracks that had a stop sign but did not have a crossing arm.
Police said Pittman was driving slowly down the driveway. Witnesses and the train conductor all said they saw Pittman holding a cell phone up with his left hand having a conversation, Shumway said.
The conductor blew the train whistle and witnesses tried to flag Pittman down, but Shumway said he drove past the stop sign and was hit by the 1,150 feet long Portland & Western freight train.
"I heard the train coming and the whistle was blowing a little louder than usual," said witness Sherman Moppin. "It caught my attention. I walked out the door and see the car flipped over in the ditch. I didn't even hear the collision the whistle was so loud."
Pittman’s Honda CRV was tossed by the train and flipped over before coming to a stop alongside the tracks. The train, which was loaded with rocks, was moving about 25 miles per hour at the time.
Firefighters helped Pittman out of the SUV and treated him on the scene before an ambulance took him to the hospital.
Schroeder, who has owned a transmission shop at the location for 23 years, said this is the first train wreck he's ever seen at the crossing.