Police: Drunk driver goes airborne, lands on MAX tracks

BEAVERTON, Ore. - Commuters using the TriMet MAX light rail system Red and Blue lines were hit with delays Wednesday morning after police said a car left Highway 26 and crashed down onto the tracks at the Sunset Transit Center late Tuesday night.

Beaverton Police said they were called to the transit center at about 11:15 p.m. and found a black BMW on the westbound tracks. A large tree was also brought down onto the track during the crash.

The MAX lines in the area were closed until just before 4 p.m. on Wednesday as crew repaired the track.

Police said the driver, identified as Jeff John Roberton, 27, from Vancouver, was intoxicated and driving at 80 mph or more westbound on Highway 26 when he tried to take the Highway 217 southbound exit and left the roadway, went airborne and landed on the train tracks inside the tunnel at the transit station.

Overhead electrical wires were pulled down and Trimet crews had to make several repairs.

Trimet spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt said shuttle buses were dispatched to move transit users between Galleria/Library stations in downtown Portland and the Beaverton Transit Center.

The Sunset station is one of the busiest in the system.

Roberton's mother said he was drinking while watching a Trail Blazer basketball game. Then he got behind the wheel.

His family said he just made a bad decision but is otherwise a good guy.

Court records show he has been picked up a few times for alcohol-related charges but most were dismissed.

The car was removed just before 5:00 a.m. and TriMet workers were inspecting both the power lines and rails for damage before starting repair efforts, Altstadt said.

Beorn Anderson said he was going to catch a MAX train when he heard the crash and ran down to see what had happened. "As soon as I found out that he was on the tracks, I came down to see if he was OK," Anderson said. "Somebody else actually pulled him out of the car."

Just before the crash, Officer Mike Rowe with Beaverton Police said an officer on Highway 26 saw a black BMW driving at high speed and pulled over what he thought was that vehicle, but learned it wasn't when the call about the crash came in.

The BMW's speed was clocked with a laser device at 80 mph but Rowe said the speed of the car when it crashed is unknown.

Anderson said the driver had only scrapes and bruises. The BMW was heavily damaged.

Beaverton police said Roberton has been arrested for reckless driving, DUII and criminal mischief and taken to the Washington County Jail.

According to TriMet, it will give Roberton a bill for the repairs that were made. While it doesn't have an estimate just yet, it is estimating it could be in the thousands.