By Lukas Velush and Diana Hefley, Herald Writers
EVERETT — The body of a homeless man was discovered under a blanket Thursday morning after he was struck by a 22,000-pound piece of machinery along a section of I-5 under construction, officials said.
Investigators didn’t know on Thursday whether the man, 61, was already dead when he was hit by a self-propelled work platform used to raise construction crews to work above the ground.
The Snohomish County medical examiner is expected to determine the cause of death, Everett police Sgt. Jerry Strieck said.
A witness told police the man was under a blanket about 10 a.m. when he was struck by the machinery. He was dead when police officers arrived, Strieck said.
His identity was not released Thursday.
He was found on a flat, graded dirt area under an I-5 bridge that spans 36th Street and a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway track. Police didn’t know whether the man had been sleeping there.
The truck-size machine, called a Snorkel man lift, can raise two people 60 feet into the air, said Mike Cotten, project director for the state Department of Transportation’s Everett I-5 widening project.
It runs on standard pickup truck wheels and has a work platform that’s about the size of a motorcycle. An operator can drive the machine while the lift is raised, but that didn’t appear to be the case Thursday morning, Cotten said.
“As I understood it, they were moving it from one location to another,” he said. “It would not have been extended — it would have been down.”
It can be difficult for the driver of such a machine to see what’s in front of him, regardless of the lift’s position, Cotten said.
“From the way the bucket sits in the back, I understand that it’s difficult to see what’s immediately in front,” he said.
Workers were using the machine to tear down lumber used in the concrete forms that were needed to widen the long trestle-like I-5 bridge between 37th Street and Pacific Avenue.
“We all feel very upset for anybody who knew the guy and for the construction folks who were out there as well,” Cotten said.
The death is the first in the work zone during the two-year, $263 million widening project, Cotten said. The roadwork is nearly finished and is expected to end this summer.
Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.