A former Seattle city employee who lost his wife five years ago. A California teen who ventured north for college. An Oregon man preparing for his delayed honeymoon. A North Bend ironworker.
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday released the identities of the four people killed Saturday afternoon when a tower crane collapsed onto Mercer Street in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Alan Justad, 71, of Seattle, and Sarah Wong, a 19-year-old Seattle Pacific University student, were killed when the crane struck their cars while they were sitting in traffic on Mercer Street. Ironworkers Andrew Yoder, 31, of North Bend, and Travis Corbet, 33, were working on the crane when it plunged to the street.
All four deaths were ruled accidental.
Justad, a former City of Seattle employee, worked in Mayor Mike McGinn’s administration as deputy director of what was then called the Department of Planning and Development, which issued building permits and enforced health, safety and building codes. Before that, Justad was the spokesman for the city’s Department of Construction and Land Use under Mayor Greg Nickels.
When he worked for the city, Justad promoted concentrated downtown development as key to Seattle’s future. In a 2007 Seattle Times story, he spoke favorably about the kind of growth now seen in South Lake Union, “because we’re looking to concentrate that growth where we can best serve it.”
Justad, a father of three grown daughters, lived in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood. His wife died in 2014.
On Sunday evening, before Justad’s death had been made public, a bouquet of flowers rested on the doormat of his home. Other items — including pet supplies — had been left near the flowers.
Shocked neighbors who were just becoming aware of his death declined to talk in detail about him out of respect for his daughters, who were said to be on their way to the home.
“He was an excellent neighbor for many years,” said one woman who didn’t want her name used.
Another woman burst into tears on learning Justad had died.
On Monday afternoon, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan reacted to news of Justad’s death, writing in a statement that the city had lost a “true public servant.”
Justad, who retired in 2014, “was respected for his commitment to service, his warmth, and his relentless belief in doing good for Seattle,” Durkan’s statement says. “So many in Seattle are grieving today as they absorb this terrible news. I’m holding Alan’s family and loved ones in my thoughts as they mourn this loss.”
In her statement, Durkan went on to say: “This accident was tough for so many in our community — from our ironworkers to Seattle Pacific University to the City of Seattle family, and we continue to send our deepest condolences to those who lost ones they knew and loved.”
Former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn recalled meeting Justad when McGinn was still a neighborhood activist, and later worked with him at City Hall.
“Alan was a really warm guy, a really dedicated public servant,” McGinn said.
Working in the city planning department is a tough job where officials get a lot of criticism, to which Justad responded with patience and professionalism. “You get a lot of grief from a lot of people … he was genuinely trying to do what was best for the city and be responsive,” McGinn said.
Former Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis was shocked to learn Monday that Justad was one of the four victims.
“He was a great guy. This is just tragic,” said Ceis, who worked with Justad on a routine basis during his time as Nickels’ top deputy in City Hall in the 2000s. “He was a real valued colleague and wonderful person to work with.”
Corbet, a member of the Ironworkers Local 29 union out of Portland, was identified by KOMO as a former U.S. Marine. Corbet’s wife told the TV station Sunday night that she hoped he would be remembered for the life he lived, not the way he died. They got married last year and had been planning to go on their honeymoon in June, she said.
“The past 24 hours have been the worst in my entire life,” Samantha Corbet told the station. She said she drove to Seattle on Saturday night thinking that visiting the scene would give her closure, “but it didn’t because he’s not there. I know he would want me to be strong but it’s really hard to not feel sad and lost and scared.”
Corbet had years of experience working tower cranes for most of his career, said Joe Bowers, the business manager at Local 29.
The member of the Seattle union was a journey-level ironworker with a family, said Chris McClain, the business manager of Ironworkers Local 86. He did not identify Yoder by name.
Wong, an SPU freshman, grew up in South Pasadena, California, and was considering a major in nursing. Another student in Wong’s vehicle escaped unharmed, according to an email SPU officials sent to students.
The university is still discussing with Wong’s family the ways in which she could best be honored in the coming days, said Nate Mouttet, the university’s vice president for enrollment management and marketing. Meanwhile, the school is looking to provide support services for students.
Four other people were injured in Saturday’s collapse. One was treated by medics at the scene, and the others, including a 25-year-old mother and her 4-month-old baby, were taken to Harborview Medical Center. The mother and child were discharged late Saturday.
The fourth person, a 28-year-old man, was still at Harborview in satisfactory condition Monday, said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg.
Washington state regulators have formally opened a probe into the companies involved in dismantling the crane, which came crashing down around 3:30 p.m. Saturday, smashing a new Google office building and pinning several vehicles below.
Seattle Times staff reporter Jim Brunner contributed to this story.