Lynnwood police refer forklift fatality to prosecutors

LYNNWOOD — A forklift operator could face manslaughter charges in connection with a fatal accident in the Lynnwood Goodwill parking lot in August.

The Lynnwood Police Department recently finished its investigation, and the findings were forwarded to prosecutors as a potential case of second-degree manslaughter, Cmdr. Jim Nelson said.

Detectives allege that the operator, a 47-year-old Edmonds man, was criminally negligent, public records show. His employer, Goodwill, was fined $9,000 by the state last year for workplace safety violations.

The accident happened just after 10 a.m. Aug. 18 outside the store on 198th Street SW. The operator told police he was moving a box of electronics with the forklift when he saw “a flash of blue” and slammed on the brakes.

Detectives determined that the forklift struck the victim, Chuck K. Lee, 69, of Bothell, as he walked through the parking lot. The slamming of the brakes caused the box to fall on him.

The operator moved the box off Lee and ran for help. Lee died the next day at a Seattle hospital.

A state Department of Labor &Industries investigation found that the forklift load obstructed the operator’s view. L&I also found that Goodwill should have done more to ensure safe operations of heavy equipment and the operator should have been driving slower. Multiple forklift operators at the store did not have proper training, the state reported.

The “totality of circumstances” may constitute criminal negligence, detectives wrote. A finding of negligence is a requirement for a conviction of second-degree manslaughter, a felony.

If the operator’s view hadn’t been obscured, he would have had about seven seconds to react to someone walking into his path, police wrote.

Anytime there are legal questions in a death investigation, it is standard procedure for Lynnwood police to forward the case to prosecutors for review, Nelson said.

The forklift operator has no known serious criminal history in Washington. The Herald is not naming him because he has not been charged in the Lynnwood case.

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