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Head Wound

Thursday, May 08, 2008
Those who know me know that I'm a fan of the Portland Eastbank Esplanade (even though it's not entirely perfect.) An incident there yesterday, though, made me wonder if some improvements aren't needed.

As I was walking north along the east side, just past the floating walkway, a fellow on a bicycle stopped in front of me. "Be careful," he said, indicating the path he'd just come along - and the path I was heading towards. "Something's going on up there." I looked up to see a gentleman sitting on the curb about 50 feet ahead, clutching something to his head and being tended to by someone else. "There's a bunch of about six Mexican guys up there, and one guy's covered in blood," offered the fellow.

The wounded man started half-walking, half-stumbling towards us. It became obvious that he was bleeding from the back of his head, and he had taken off his shirt and was trying to stop the bleeding with it - a white shirt was now stained deep red. The fellow on the bicycle and I agreed that we should call for emergency services. As the wounded gentleman approached, glancing with either nervousness or suspicion behind us, my new friend was calling for police and medical help on his phone and I started to help the man, instructing him to keep pressure on his wound (though trying not to get any blood on myself.)

The problem is, I don't speak Spanish. He was very uncommunicative, and - aside from stopping to stand (and bleed) near us - didn't say anything. At this point, two women walked up and started helping him and the gentleman on the bicycle and I called for help again as the wounded man started to pass out.

I will say this for the Portland Police and Fire services: they were there within 10 minutes. Furthermore, as I'll get to in a bit, they couldn't just drive up to the scene. They showed up and immediately took over. Somehow I blinked and there were two officers and five fire department EMTs on the scene. As the medics tended to the wounded man, the police started taking names and numbers of potential witnesses.

As best as I can figure, the wounded man was part of a group of people who routinely hang out in the areas off the path of the Esplanade. Largely unseen, they generally don't bother anyone (at least as far as I've heard.) However, in this case, one person assaulted the other (I heard reports of "those guys over there said that the guy who hit this guy went that way") and that led to our situation. This area is apparently a favorite of those on the grey side of the law as emergency access is very limited. As one police officer described, they and the medics had to park up near the Rose Garden and walk down to the scene - at least five minutes on foot. (That makes their response time even more impressive!) Furthermore, they would have to carry this guy out.

The problem with emergency access is that there's no way to get to most portions of the Eastbank Esplanade. It's sandwiched tightly between I-5 and the Willamette River, with very few (if any) opportunities to get a vehicle anywhere near it or on it. As the police officer explained with frustration, "If someone's actively being attacked, we just can't respond quickly!"

I don't know how they'd solve the problem. I, however, can at least say that they were very responsive to our call, and that I'm glad the man received the help he needs. Violence near the Esplanade always troubles me as I tend to think of Portland as being a safe city, but in this case I think it was not part of a patten.


Blogger Laura said...

Better than here in Houston.

The stepfather of a woman I know died in the parking garage of the hospital emergency room, steps from the door, in his wifes arms. He was hemorrhaging blood, just covered in it, and she was screaming for help, and people just walked by. I forget what happened, it was something internal and he had cancer.

8:47 AM, May 09, 2008  

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