Over the years, the office manager of Trinity United Methodist Church on S.E. Steele Street at 39th (Chavez) says she's seen a few odd incidents. But what Susan Ripley saw in the church's lower parking lot the evening of October 8th really surprised her.
'We were inside and heard the loud sound of tires squealing, and then a very loud thump,' Ripley told THE BEE. 'I came out, and here's this pickup truck partway up the staircase. His tires are squealing like crazy, and smoke is coming off of them as they're grinding on the pavement.'
Puzzled by the peculiar sight, Ripley says she thought to herself, quite accurately as it turned out, 'He's trying to drive up the hillside.'
It could have been a GPS system error, perhaps, because S.E. Mitchell Street - a block north of S.E. Steele - is platted to go eastbound from S.E. 39th to SE 40th, but no roadway exists. 'For years, the property was overgrown with blackberry bushes. But, the Boy Scouts helped clear it off and build an earthen stairway to our upper parking lot,' Ripley pointed out.
'He kept saying, 'I can make it, I can make it!' I told him no, I really don't think you can make it,' continued Ripley. 'Then, the driver decided to back down the hillside and he couldn't do that either, because he'd dug his tailgate into the asphalt and knocked over all the dumpsters in the process. I yelled at him to stop.'
Ripley said the young man at the wheel finally scrambled out of his wrecked vehicle. ''Well, I've done it before. I've driven up here lots of times',' Ripley says, quoting the errant driver's words.
'I asked him if really thought he could drive up the stairway - there's a big picnic table at the top of the stairs - and miss the trees and bushes, and somehow 'make it'?'
'I've done it lots of times before', the man insisted to the church manager.
By that time, a Portland Police Bureau (PPB) District Officer had arrived, soon followed by a Traffic Division Officer who led the driver through field sobriety tests. He didn't pass.
Ripley looked at the damage to the church property, which appeared to be minor. 'No doubt, he really believed he could make it up the hill.'
'It looks as if 28-year-old Nathaniel Wayne Eddings was charged with DUII, Reckless Driving, and Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree, in relation to this incident,' later reported PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Peter Simpson, after checking the records.