OLYMPIA - A man who was struck by a train while he was lying in a railroad tunnel downtown early Tuesday morning will survive but has lost both arms, an Olympia police officer said.
The 22-year-old lost one of his arms below the shoulder and the other below his elbow, Olympia police officer Shelby Nutter said. She would not release the man’s name Tuesday afternoon because she wanted to notify his family.
Nutter said she had not been able to locate the man’s family. She confirmed that he is transient.
The man was treated in the area of Seventh Avenue and Jefferson Street about 1:30 a.m., after residents there heard him screaming. Nutter said aid personnel with the Olympia Fire Department took him to Providence St. Peter Hospital, and he was taken by helicopter to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
He was struck by a train belonging to Tacoma Rail while lying in the approximately three-block-long tunnel passing from the area of Seventh Avenue and Adams Street to Capitol Way and Amanda Smith Street, Nutter said. She said she won’t know whether he was sleeping until she speaks to him .
She said she hoped to speak to him at the hospital today but it would depend on his medical condition.
The train’s operators told police they didn’t see anyone in the tunnel, Nutter said.
“They were unaware a collision had occurred,” she said. The train was several miles away when police located it Tuesday morning.
Nutter said the man’s ability to walk out of the tunnel and seek medical treatment likely saved his life.
“He acted very quickly and got himself help very quickly,” she said.
Nutter said there are clearly posted “No trespassing” signs on either side of the tunnel. Use of the tunnel by transients is a “big problem,” she said. Police try to keep trespassers from using the tunnel, she said, but don’t have the resources to patrol the area constantly. She added that many people are unaware that the railroad tunnel is still used .
About noon Tuesday, a man and a woman were walking together through the tunnel. A man walking alone approached the mouth of the tunnel and turned around when he saw people there. All three confirmed that the tunnel is frequented by the homeless. There were liquor bottles and beer cans in the tunnel, and the man and woman said it is a popular site for drug use. They said there are vents in the tunnel that blow warm air, offering a respite from the elements during the colder months.