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The Today File

Your guide to the latest news from around the Northwest

February 12, 2015 at 2:00 PM

4 workers injured in accident at Highway 99 tunnel project

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Seattle firefighters treat a worker who was injured Thursday in an accident at the Highway 99 tunnel project. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Update at 3:40 p.m.: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, across town at news conference he called on measures to improve traffic safety, said about the accident: “This is not an issue about the tunnel,” Murray said. “This is an issue of worker safety.”

WSDOT now says five workers were installing rebar for a concrete wall at the tunnel’s north portal work zone. The wall of rebar gave way, injuring four of the five workers.

Update at 3:39 p.m.: A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman said the injured workers are awake and alert, in satisfactory condition and undergoing further evaluation.  Some have arm, back and neck injuries.

Update at 3:31 p.m.: A spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation says the workers were injured while installing rebar on a wall. The wall somehow gave way and the workers fell about 25 feet. She declined to comment further.

Update at 3:07 p.m.: The most seriously injured worker suffered a broken arm, according to Moore.

Harborview Medical Center reports the four victims are ages 23, 39, 31 and 36 years old. None have life-threatening injuries, the hospital confirms.

Update at 3:02 p.m.:  The state Department of Labor & Industries says it is looking into the tunnel accident.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Transportation has issued the following statement:

“We are still gathering information, but Seattle Tunnel Partners has informed us that an incident has occurred on the SR 99 Tunnel Project job site in the north portal area. Safety is STP’s and WSDOT’s number one priority. Right now, their field crews are focusing on making sure the site is secured. Emergency services were notified immediately and arrived on site after the incident.

We will provide additional information as it becomes available.”

Update at 2:34 p.m: Moore now says four people were injured.

tunnel-accident-cThe four men fell about 25 feet when the wall in an elevator shaft collapsed, he said.

Three were able to make their way out. One had to be carried out by two firefighters.

All four are being taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment, he said.

The construction site is so large, Moore said firefighters had to hike a half-mile to reach the seriously injured worker. He reportedly suffered broken bones.

Update at 2:25 p.m.: Seattle Fire Department Kyle Moore says at least three people were injured in the accident. The extent of their injuries wasn’t immediately known.

Original post: The Seattle Fire Department is at the scene of the Highway 99 tunnel project following some sort of industrial accident.

Details are unclear, but there appears to be at least one injury.

The incident happened near the north portal of the two-lane Highway 99 tunnel project, expected to open two or three years from now. Crews have excavated a large trench in the ground and built concrete walls, where ramps will emerge between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Aurora Avenue North.

Officials from Seattle Tunnel Partners and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) are headed to the site, and didn’t have immediate details, said WSDOT spokeswoman Laura Newborn.  Television footage indicates this may have happened inside a short retrieval-pit area, where tunnel-boring machine Bertha is to be extracted at the end of the project. Bertha has been stuck at the south end of the tunnel for more than a year, awaiting repair.

Previously, the project has earned an above-average safety record, especially in the treacherous Sodo area where Bertha was launched July 30, 2013.  STP reported last year that the job went 3 ¼ million worker-hours without an injury that caused people to miss work.

This post will be updated.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: Highway 99 tunnel project, industrial accident, Seattle Fire Department

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