EVERETT, WA – At approximately 8:00 a.m., Everett Fire responded to a report from Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) personnel of a possible individual who may be in a man-made tunnel with the potential to collapse next to the NB I-5 off-ramp at Pacific Avenue. This information initiated a 3-alarm technical rescue response.
Arriving fire units obtained information from WSDOT personnel that they saw an individual near the tunnel's entrance the previous night. When they arrived in the area this morning to do some work, they found dirt and rocks over the entrance to the tunnel. It was unknown if there was anyone in the tunnel or if the tunnel had collapsed. Further information collected at the scene indicated an individual was known to frequent the tunnel, which escalated the concern.
Various agencies were on scene to provide specially trained personnel and or equipment to aid in this response. Rescuers meticulously removed soil to expose the entrance to the tunnel. Camera equipment was used to try and gain a better visual inside the tunnel. Due to the length of the tunnel, rescuers were unable to confirm if anyone was in the tunnel or if the roadway had been compromised.
To obtain confirmation of these safety concerns, rescue workers conducted an extensive digging operation. A camera was used to clear each tunnel section before dirt was removed by shovel or heavy equipment. The tunnel, estimated to be about 45 feet long, was initially dug in an east to west direction, then turned south paralleling the off-ramp. It was determined the tunnel did not go under the roadway.
At approximately 2:45 p.m., rescuers reached the end of the tunnel with no one found. The scene was turned over to WSDOT in conjunction with Everett Public Works to make repairs to the land where the tunnel was dug.
Burlington Northern Railroad was contacted to stop trains in the area as a safety precaution.
The NB I-5 off-ramp at Pacific Avenue and Pacific Avenue between Walnut Street and Chestnut Street was closed for the duration of the incident.
Multiple agencies assisted Everett Fire in this operation, including South Snohomish County Fire and Rescue, Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue, and Marysville Fire District, who are all part of the Snohomish County Technical Rescue Team. Assistance was also received by Seattle Fire Department's Rescue 1, Snohomish County Fire District 4, Painfield Fire Department, Naval Station Everett, Everett Public Works, WSDOT, Everett Police, Lake Stevens Police, and Washington State Patrol.