Several days ago The Stranger received a distraught e-mail from a woman whose 19-year-old nephew died after illegally climbing on—and falling from—the corroded gasification equipment at Gas Works Park on May 25. His name was Lucas, he'd just graduated from high school in Boston, and he was in the midst of a cross-country road trip with friends at the time.
"The young man had fallen from an estimated distance of 30 feet on the north side of a fuel tank," Seattle Fire Department wrote on its blog. "The area the man was climbing in was cordoned off with razor wire fencing and no trespassing signs."
His aunt, Christine Perez, was concerned that his death went unnoticed by Seattle residents—there were no obituaries in local papers and no mention of the accident in the local press.
"I would just like people to be informed about these gas towers," writes Perez. "I would also like my nephew, Lucas Voss-Kernan, to be the example of what could happen if you risk climbing these towers. I do not want his death to have been in vain... the community needs to know. Tourists need to know."
Of course, Seattle residents and tourists should already know. No one accidentally illegally climbs on decrepit old factory equipment surrounded by fences, razor wire, and "no trespassing" signs.
But people do it all the same. Neither the parks department nor the Seattle Police Department could provide detailed records on how often accidents like this happen, but the Fire Department notes that on May 12, medics responded to calls that a 25-year-old fell from the equipment and broke his leg, and medics have responded to at least four other fall-related calls since 2006.
And anecdotally, it seems that everyone knows someone who's climbed the structures. Most have been fine, but others have fallen, broken a bone, had a metal plate screwed into their skull, or died. Mention the park and everyone's got a story of an injury, and yet these stories typically go unreported.
Which seems to indicate two things: That the fence, signs, and razor wire are remarkably easy to get around, and the accidents that result are almost viewed as mundane. And that isn't right.
If there are gaps or holes in that fence, the parks department should patch them. Perhaps they should also double the size of their signage, maybe add something jazzy like, "Do Not Climb on This Equipment or You Might Die. We're Fucking Serious."
And people should start taking those warnings seriously.