Rantz: After hours spent unnoticed on Seattle bus, unresponsive man pronounced dead after shift
A King County Subway Services worker found an unresponsive man on a Seattle bus after a driver’s shift ended. He was pronounced dead after doctors were called. The 30-year-old victim had been on the bus for hours before being noticed, although it is unclear whether the man died during or after the end of the shift.
At approximately 6:20 p.m. on March 10, a service worker found the man in a coach parked at the Ryerson base in downtown Seattle. The bus driver had already finished his shift. Seattle firefighters arrived but were unable to help the man. Doctors pronounced the unidentified man dead at 7:24 p.m.
There is now an investigation into the events of the evening. How did the passenger go unnoticed for so long? Would early intervention have saved his life?
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How did it go unnoticed?
Neither the identity of the passenger nor the cause of death has been released. But King County Metro says the victim was on the Route 134 bus for several hours before being found by a service worker. This route connects downtown Seattle and Tukwila.
“Preliminary information is that the passenger boarded earlier in the afternoon. We are working to confirm the timeline elements of this incident,” a King County Metro spokesperson told the Jason Rantz Show. on KTTH.
Bus drivers are expected to check their coach for sleeping or intoxicated customers throughout their shifts. They are not supposed to bring passengers to the base. Protocol, in this case, may not have been followed, although the spokesperson said, “Metro is reviewing this incident.”
“All operators are instructed to check their coach for sleeping or intoxicated customers and that no passengers should be brought onto a base,” the spokesperson explained. “If an operator finds an unresponsive passenger, they should use good judgment to attempt to wake them up and call a coordinator if they feel unsafe.”
King County Metro Transit operator Erik Christensen, a colleague of the driver, told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the driver checked the cab. Maybe it was an unfortunate mistake.
“We are supposed to check our buses before leaving. And I know that driver did,” Christensen explained. “We have also become well, complacent. Some of us because we see it so often. So when we look back, like in my case, I made that mistake…didn’t result in death thankfully, but I made the mistake of just looking superficial. And then the second look realizing ‘oh, there’s someone on the bus.’ It’s sad that this happened.”
Is this the end result of a homelessness trend?
It’s hard not to link this incident to the current homelessness crisis, although it’s unclear if the passenger was homeless. If so, it wouldn’t surprise cyclists or everyday drivers who have long complained that homeless people have taken over some routes.
Tariffs are not applied under the false claim that it is racist. But activists and lawmakers also complain that it disproportionately affects the homeless. This is obviously true: the application of tariffs has an impact on people who do not pay tariffs. That’s the point.
But the lack of enforcement means the homeless travel for free, often using the bus to sleep or abuse drugs.
Christensen says he deals with a homeless drug addict who abuses drugs on his bus at least four times a week.
“They seem to favor express routes or ones that don’t have a lot of stops because it gives them more time to do what they need to do,” Christensen explained. “And it gives them time to sit down and enjoy the high, which usually involves passing out in most cases.”
It’s hard to believe a passenger didn’t notice the man. If it weren’t so common on a bus – a man trying to pass out – there might have been some early intervention from a passenger on the bus.
Will anything be done to fix the problem?
Bus drivers have filed a historic number of complaints with King County Metro in 2021. They say they have seen an increase in homeless people smoking narcotics on the bus. I have personally seen addicts smoking meth or fentanyl in the back of the bus, not caring about impacting other passengers.
Rather than publicly addressing the issue in a meaningful way, Metro instead declared its support for Ukraine in the fight against Russia. While this virtue signage may bring some social value to the agency, it does nothing to improve the user and driver experience on the bus.
More worryingly, it does nothing to end the suffering of drug addicts. Early intervention can put them on the right track, but city and county officials prefer not to be proactive in aggressive treatment.
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