Roger Sanders’ family is getting little information from Boeing about why it took an hour and 24 minutes for Sanders to reach a hospital from the plant after he suffered a head injury.
When the ambulance arrived at Building 3-380 at Boeing’s Seattle plant to take Roger Sanders to the hospital, he had already waited for more than an hour.
Sanders, 60, an overnight-shift maintenance engineer, collapsed during an Aug. 30 meeting and struck his head on the concrete floor about 4:15 a.m.
A Boeing employee called 911 within minutes. It’s unclear why Sanders, a 25-year Boeing veteran, didn’t arrive at Highline Medical Center in Burien until 5:39 a.m.
Within hours of being admitted, Sanders was brain dead. His family took him off life support and he died Sept. 3.
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Sanders’ family is demanding answers but getting little information from Boeing as to why it took an hour and 24 minutes for Sanders to reach a hospital from the plant off South Myrtle Street.
“It’s barbaric,” said Sanders’ wife, Julie Braunschweig, 57. “It’s despicable. Someone needs to answer for this. … They let him lay there.”
The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), the state’s workplace-safety agency, is investigating the death.
Although much of the incident is unclear, The Seattle Times found Boeing failed to follow state law that requires an incident that results in hospitalization be reported within eight hours to L&I.
“We are definitely supposed to be notified,” but weren’t by Boeing, said L&I spokesman Tim Church.
Boeing also didn’t contact the agency when Sanders died, which is required.
The Boeing Co.; Boeing Fire Department, which responded to the accident; and the International Association of Machinists District 751, which represented Sanders, would not comment about the incident, citing the pending investigation.
Boeing reports it has one of the largest private fire departments in the United States and doesn’t have to provide a public account of its personnel, budget and response to incidents.
There have been three deaths at Boeing plants since 2012. A worker for a Boeing supplier died after an air bag accidentally discharged at the Everett plant in 2014, the most recent case.
Boeing started a workplace-safety program last year called “Go for Zero — One Day at a Time.” Its goal is zero injuries, stating, “we value human life and well-being above all else and take action accordingly.”
“An old-fashioned man”
Sanders and his wife moved to the Phoenix area after he retired from Boeing in 2011. They were ready for the next phase of life with four-wheeling, his fried-chicken dinners and movie nights, she said.
But in 2015, a Boeing supervisor called Sanders, begging him to step back into the workforce because he knew things they couldn’t teach other people at the plant, Braunschweig recalls.
The couple moved back and Sanders picked up where he left off, taking care of heavy equipment. He usually worked from 10 p.m. until about 6 a.m.
Within an hour of getting to their Ravensdale home, southeast of Seattle, Braunschweig said, he’d wake her every morning with a cup of coffee in bed.
“He was an old-fashioned man,” she added. “Rugged and tender.”
Braunschweig provided The Seattle Times with a two-page eyewitness account she said a co-worker on duty that morning wrote and gave to her shortly after Sanders’ death. The co-worker wouldn’t comment.
According to the document:
During that Aug. 30 shift, Sanders, the co-worker and supervisor met in the shop to talk about an issue with a stacker, a large movable platform.
Sanders started to cough, stood up from a chair and then fell back, with his head taking the brunt force of the concrete floor.
He mumbled words and barely moved his body. His right eye remained open. There was blood on the floor.
The manager called Boeing emergency crews.
The co-worker held Sanders’ hand and told him help was on the way.
Two Allied Universal personnel who provide security at Boeing went to the building, and then Boeing Fire Department arrived and evaluated Sanders.
Sanders was incoherent and pushed them away when they tried to give him an EKG and oxygen.
The co-worker opened a roll-up door, where a Boeing ambulance waited. Boeing Fire put Sanders on a backboard and onto a gurney as a disoriented Sanders struggled with the straps and emergency employees.
“Boeing Fire told our manager and me that they were going to have another ambulance come and pick Roger (Sanders) up to go to the hospital,” the document states. “Then most of the Boeing Fire left as they said they had a class to teach.”
Sanders sounded like he was snoring as two Boeing fire personnel waited for a private Tri-Med ambulance to arrive.
Tri-Med moved Sanders into the ambulance, and left Boeing at about 5:20 a.m., said Dr. Nicole Yarid with the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“When medics got there, he was talking but not particularly coherent,” so they probably weren’t too concerned, she said. “By the time he got to the hospital, he was in much worse condition.”
Todd Kelley, Boeing Fire spokesman, didn’t answer questions but stated: “The matter is being thoroughly investigated and our hearts certainly go out to his family.”
The Seattle Fire Department also became involved when it received a 911 call at 4:17 a.m. Its ambulance arrived at 4:32 a.m. but left at about 4:46 a.m., when they determined Sanders was in stable condition, said Kristin Tinsley, its spokeswoman.
“Boeing Fire has their own ambulance and requests Seattle Fire for evaluation of patients,” Tinsley stated. “If deemed Advanced Life Support, Seattle Fire Medics transport the patient. If Basic Life Support, Boeing Fire takes over patient care and transports via their own ambulance.”
Sanders arrived at Highline — about eight miles away — at about 5:39 a.m., according to an emergency-room record and Yarid, and he needed intubation, probably because he lost consciousness.
When Braunschweig couldn’t be reached by phone, she said, the co-worker drove to Ravensdale, and woke her up at about 7:30 a.m., telling her to rush to the hospital.
Sanders had emergency brain surgery to release the pressure, but Braunschweig said physicians told her that he had extensive bleeding, the brain died and there was nothing more they could do.
A desire to know
When Stephen Sanders, of Conroe, Texas, heard that his youngest brother was near death, he was shocked. Stranded by airport closures because of Hurricane Harvey, he arrived a couple of days after the fall.
As a retired Houston police officer, with 15 years in the investigations unit, Sanders questioned why a fall could cause such a massive hemorrhage and why his brother wasn’t transported to the hospital sooner.
“I’m wondering what they are covering up,” he said. “I want to know exactly what happened. (Did) they administer the proper medical treatment” on the scene?
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office, not Boeing, notified L&I of the workplace death, Church said.
L&I supervisors did little in the first two weeks to investigate the case.
“The initial report sounded like an office-space incident but as some more details came our way we decided we needed to know more and officially opened (an investigation) on Sept. 18” and inspected the Boeing facility, Church said.
He wouldn’t comment further about the investigation.
With little clarity as to how emergency personnel responded to her husband, Braunschweig said she feels further devastated.
“My husband would have received more care from strangers on the streets of Seattle,” than at Boeing, she said.