East Portland

Lesson: Not getting hit by a train more important than listening to music

Lesson: Not getting hit by a train more important than listening to music »Play Video
Ian Sutherland hugs Maryellen Gisi

PORTLAND, Ore. – Maryellen Gisi heard the MAX train coming before she saw it.

Ian Sutherland didn’t. He had his headphones in.

So when he finally did see the train, he saw it all too well – 20 feet away and bearing down on him faster than he could’ve imagined.

“It’s something that can happen to anybody if you’re not paying attention, Sutherland said. “I learned that first hand.”

As he does every day, Sutherland got on at the Gateway station and got off at E. 181st.

As he does every day, he hopped on his bike, popped in his headphones and took off.

Wednesday quickly become unlike every other day.

“I guess I got complacent – I had my headphones in and I didn’t hear it coming,” Sutherland said. “As soon as I got into the intersection, I saw the train … I immediately turned left as hard as I could.

“My front wheel got caught in the track and then I unclipped from my pedal and pushed away about six inches. Just as I got that far away, the left-front corner of the front train hit me kind of in the flank and shoulder and the back of the bike and sent me off.”

The next thing he knew, he was bruised up, his bike was damaged and Gisi – who is a TriMet facilities staff member – was calling him “Sweet Pea” as she tried to calm him down.

“Myself and two ladies who had just gotten off the train started screaming – we knew,” Gisi said. “I saw him flying through the air and skidding, and then he jumped up like nothing I’d ever seen before.”

The three women weren’t the only ones who saw the collision unfold.

MAX operator Rick Shaffer had a front-row seat. He said the trains can’t stop as quickly as people think they can.

“It was very traumatic,” he said. “It’s a scary experience. As an operator, we have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.

“It scared me a lot. Right now I still feel pretty shook up about it.”

Sutherland knows it could’ve been much worse.

He feels stupid for being in the situation in the first place.

Did he think he was going to die?

“Absolutely,” he said. “As soon as I looked at the train that was the first thing I thought. But at that point you don’t really think  - you just do whatever you have to do to not end up dead. But that was my first thought when I saw the train because it’s big and it moves fast.”

Sutherland started a Reddit thread warning other people to be more careful at intersections.

Shaffer, of course, concurs.

“When stuff like this happens, it just comes out of the blue and you do what you can,” he said. “In this situation when I saw him, there was no time to react. It was just … you were hoping for the best.”