Seattle police today said they regret any inconvenience for drivers when they ordered Highway 99 closed while investigating an injury accident south of the West Seattle Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, creating a nightmare for commuters and people trying to get into the city for a Mariners game.
But they asked people to keep things in perspective.
“There was a very valid reason,” said Seattle Police Department spokesman Patrick Michaud. “We don’t just close down the road because we want to make everybody’s life more difficult.”
According to police, the decision to close down Highway 99 north of the Battery Street Tunnel — more than four miles from the crash — was “the most expedient and safest course of action. We had three people seriously injured. We had officers, firefighters and medics in the street. We closed it down at the beginning of the tunnel so investigators could safely and properly investigate the collision and do their jobs,” said Michaud.
The two-car collision occurred about 1:45 p.m. on Highway 99 at South Nevada Street when the driver of the northbound vehicle crossed into the southbound lanes and hit another vehicle head-on, according to the Seattle police and fire. One man suffered critical injuries and had to be cut from his vehicle using heavy-rescue equipment, according to the fire department. The driver and passenger of the second vehicle also were injured.
Police blocked southbound Highway 99 miles north to move traffic onto Interstate 5 and elsewhere via Denny Way.
The road remained closed for nearly six hours and, in the meantime, commuters left for home and Mariners fans headed for the stadium.
The Seattle Department of Transportation said southbound traffic on Aurora Avenue North was backed up past the Aurora Bridge at 6:30 p.m.
Michaud said, “The collision happened in a nasty spot on the same day as a baseball game, so it was kind of really bad, bad timing. A lot of people were, and still are, very, very angry and upset about how it was handled. Some said words I can’t repeat in mixed company. We totally understand that it was a very big inconvenience to people who would normally drive down that road.”
On the other hand, he said, “Three people were very seriously injured in the collision and we have to be able to do our job for them to get justice or punishment.”
He said police are listening seriously to the feedback, however, and are looking for “new ways to go about making our job better and safer and making our impact on the public better.”