PORTLAND — Antonio Amaro Lopez started driving home from his job at his family’s Hazel Dell restaurant about 5 p.m. Sunday.
And shortly after he left work, drivers on the Glenn Jackson Bridge saw a maroon SUV lose control, hit an embankment and go over the side of the span into the Columbia River below.
The car had been traveling south on the bridge that connects Oregon and Washington during one of the biggest winter storms the area has seen in years.
Family members are still waiting anxiously for any confirmation of the driver’s identity, but they believe Amaro Lopez, who hasn’t been seen since Sunday evening, was in the car that went over the bridge. KOIN first reported his disappearance.
The Portland Police Bureau, which is in charge of the case, did not respond to requests for comment late Monday about search efforts for the missing person and car.
According to Kelly Brown, an extended family member of Amaro Lopez, the Southeast Portland man was driving a 2006 maroon Subaru Tribeca and had just called his wife to let her know that he was on his way home. He normally takes Interstate 5 to State Route 14 East, then takes Interstate 205 over the Columbia River, Brown said.
“According to witnesses, he was on the Glenn Jackson bridge, and it looks like he lost control on a sheet of ice,” Brown told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Monday evening. “The snow plows pushed the snow to the side and created and embankment, and the vehicle went up that and over, into the water.”
Brown said Amaro Lopez’s family began to worry when he didn’t show up Sunday night — and when family members saw law enforcement had reported a car going into the water, they called to express concern that Amaro Lopez might have been the driver.
But Brown said Amaro Lopez’s family didn’t hear any information about the search for the missing person until Monday afternoon, when a family member got a call from a U.S. Coast Guard official, who said the agency had sent searchers out for the missing person within 15 minutes of getting a report that someone had gone off the bridge.
“They told us they searched for four hours to find the vehicle or any sign of life,” Brown said. “They were unsuccessful.”
A Portland Fire & Rescue spokesperson told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Sunday night that the vehicle had been discovered, but Portland police said Monday morning that wasn’t the case.
Brown said the Coast Guard official told family members that searchers couldn’t return to the site Monday because of poor weather and murky water conditions but that they plan to continue the search Tuesday.
The Portland Police Bureau said in a Tuesday afternoon release that no vehicle nor person associated with it had been located. The release says weather was believed to be a factor in the crash.
Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office River Patrol Unit deputies are conducting sonar scans on the Columbia River under the Glenn Jackson Bridge, according to PPB. Those scans are reportedly ongoing.
Brown said the family has been frustrated by the lack of information shared by law enforcement agencies about the status of the search.
“The family has been sitting here on pins and needles, thinking no one was searching for him,” Brown said.
She said they’ve been grieving the disappearance of Amaro Lopez, whom Brown described as a loving grandfather and a dedicated father and husband.
“He’s a really hard worker, and was always doing everything he can to provide for his family,” Brown said. “He’s the kindest person we’ve met in our lives.”
Portland police ask anyone who has information about the car that went off the bridge to contact Officer Garrett Dow at 503-823-5070.