Two Gurneys, One Occupied, Fall Out of Thurston County Coroner’s Van Into Traffic

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Two gurneys, including one that was occupied by a deceased person, fell out of the back of a van and into traffic Monday afternoon in Olympia, police say.

The van was on its way back to the Thurston County Coroner’s Office just before 12:30 p.m. after responding to a home death.

Olympia Police Department Lt. Paul Lower said the two gurneys fell out of the back of the van at the intersection of Martin Way East and Phoenix Street Southeast.

The gurney occupied by the deceased person was found in the middle of the intersection, while the second gurney rolled down Phoenix Street Southeast and was found in a parking lot near Pacific Avenue Southeast.

Lower said two officers were near the site when dispatch reported the incident, and were able to quickly reroute traffic away from the area. The coroner’s office was notified and returned to load the gurneys back into the van.

Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said a preliminary investigation is under way to determine whether the cause of the incident was operating error or mechanical failure.

There was no trauma to the body after the incident, he said, and the family was notified Monday about what happened.

Warnock has served with the coroner’s office since 2001 — first as an investigator before becoming coroner — and said nothing like this has happened before.

The van will be tested and checked for any mechanical failure, he said.

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