PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The family of a man who died after his vehicle went off the Glenn Jackson Bridge and fell into the Columbia River, is now suing the Oregon Department of Transportation.
It was a Sunday late afternoon almost exactly one year ago, day four of a four day winter storm that hammered the Portland metro area.
Antonio Amaro-Lopez sent a text message to his family letting them know he was on his way home from the restaurant in Hazel Dell that his family owned and operated. The text would be the last communication Amaro-Lopez would ever have with his family again.
As Amaro-Lopez was heading southbound across the Interstate 205 Glenn Jackson Bridge icy conditions caused him to lose control of the 2006 Subaru Tribeca. A witness said the SUV plunged off the bridge and into the river.
On Tuesday, KOIN 6 spoke with the family’s attorney, Mike Maxwell, who says ODOT didn’t properly plow the bridge during the winter storm and says it cost Amaro-Lopez his life.
“This was a devastating loss for the family,” Maxwell said.
In the 12-page wrongful death complaint, Maxwell says ODOT trucks pushed snow to the shoulder of the bridge but didn’t clear the shoulder.
The lawsuit claims as the snow and ice accumulated it created a snow ramp.
According to a witness account, as his vehicle “fishtailed” it hit the “man-made” snow ramp and went over the edge of the bridge.
The lawsuit also mentions that a Washington state trooper who responded to the scene reported that the snow had been plowed off the lane and had a ramp-like effect on the shoulder to the top of the concrete barrier.
This is also what Sergeant Ty Engrstrom with Portland police told KOIN 6 a year ago when he was investigating the crash.
“Through the plowing process, a lot of that snow that was on the freeway was pushed off to the side. Unfortunately, you have all that snow packed up there and we had some thawing and re-freezing and it made that snowbank pretty hard. Unfortunately, when the vehicle went to that side of the roadway, it was able to just go right up and over the Jersey barrier because of the snowbank,” Engrstrom explained.
The suit claims the “man-made” snow ramp was 12-feet wide and compacted providing a “smooth” surface for a vehicle to depart the roadway and travel up and over the barrier.
Maxwell says ODOT failed to follow its winter maintenance policy by not removing the snow and ice buildup on the shoulder of the bridge.
“They should have taken that snow and they should have pushed that snow to the end of the bridge, and then they should have cleared it at the end of the bridge,” Maxwell said.
KOIN 6 reached out to ODOT but said they do not comment on pending litigation.