On Wednesday, Portland police named 50-year-old Sarah Pliner as the victim of Tuesday’s deadly crash. As the founder of the now-closed Aviary restaurant, Pliner was a well-known chef in the Portland food scene. Her honors included being a 2016 James Beard semi-finalist for their Best Chef in the Northwest award.
Following Pliner’s death, the Street Trust organization released a statement on Wednesday — demanding safety improvements from the city.
“The Street Trust is tired of issuing statements and offering condolences for the loss of life and limb due to government inaction on SE Powell Blvd. in Portland and are demanding immediate action -today- from local and state government to prevent future injuries and deaths,” the statement read in part. “The Street Trust is demanding that the City of Portland and State of Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) cooperate to immediately physically separate from motor vehicle traffic all vulnerable street users including people on bicycles, pedestrians, and transit riders until a full investigation of yesterday’s killing is completed.”
The collision occurred near Cleveland High School on Southeast Powell Boulevard and Southeast 26th Avenue just before noon. Police say the driver of the vehicle remained at the scene and was cooperative.
According to her friends, Pliner was preparing to open a new restaurant in Portland before her death.
“She could outcook anyone,” said friend, Tom Pavlik, also remembering Pliner as humble and an introvert. “Her comfort zone was feeding people and making people happy.”
Pliner was a chef with a passion not only for making food, but creating an experience for those who would come into her restaurants.
“She was very shy, very humble, but she knew she could cook, there’s no doubt,” said Susanne Fullerton, who knew Pliner for years after coming into her restaurant, eventually working together. “Her food spoke, painted a story about her.”
Pliner worked as a chef in Portland, co-owning Aviary until its closure two years ago, then crafting in kitchens across the city.
Pavlik says Pliner biked everywhere and after a history of incidents along the corridor where she was hit — including a cyclist seriously injured in a crash at the same intersection in 2015 — Pavlik, as well as cycling advocates, worry not enough is being done to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe.
“Sadly, that intersection, which has been a problem for over half a decade, has yet to be addressed. This didn’t have to happen,” said Pavlik. “The fact that seven years later, maybe because they didn’t know the right people to call, my friend died yesterday…I just don’t have the words for that.”
Before her death, Pliner was working on opening a new restaurant and in the meantime, creating pairing dinners at Fullerton Wines’ tasting room. Her next one was planned for Thursday.
“Her life was taken way too soon, it really was,” said Fullerton. “She had so much more to give, and I know she was so excited. She said, ‘this is a way for me to get into running a restaurant again.'”
Now as loved ones feel her loss, they hope Pliner’s passion for feeding others and impact on Portland’s culinary scene will carry forward.
“It’s a big loss for Portland,” said Pavlik. “Amazing energy, she was a wizard in the kitchen.”
Pliner’s planned pairing dinner that was set for Thursday is now canceled. Fullerton adds she hopes they’re able to honor her culinary style and work in the future.
If anyone has information about this incident and has not yet spoken with police, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and reference case number 22-26686, or call (503) 823-2103.