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Drivers may have taken backseat to fish in Highway 99 semi-truck crash

The city of Seattle originally said it couldn't have moved a rolled semi-truck full of fish from southbound Highway 99 last month. (Seattle Police Dept.)

The city of Seattle originally said it couldn’t have moved a rolled semi-truck full of fish from southbound Highway 99 last month. But they’re backtracking on that claim.

Traffic was stopped for nine hours on March 24 while drivers waited for tow trucks to right the truck and move it.

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“I think what the incident from Tuesday highlights is that we actually do a good job of incident response,” SDOT director Scott Kubly told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson two days after the crash.

It left commuters still wondering why SDOT crews didn’t just push the truck to one side, but Kubly said, “Instead of just moving a truck, we would be having to clean up the fish, sweep off the street, make sure there were no oils that were making the street slick.”

But now…

“The decision to lift versus push was one component,” Kubly told the City Council on Tuesday.

“Given all we know, with the benefit of hindsight, we may have elected to push the truck out of the way,” Kubly said.

He said the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Police Department have different protocols for a major traffic situation like this. The police department prioritizes property above traffic.

SPD counsel Krista Bryan Maxie explained that an insurance adjuster was at the site of the crash.

“He expressed some desire if possible the load be preserved because there was three-quarters of a million dollars of fish in the back of the truck,” Maxie said.

The city said two weeks ago it hired a consultant to create policies to prevent something like the lengthy response time from happening again.

“Now we’re going to work with a consultant to get those protocols in place to get our people the training they need to respond to complicated incidents like this,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said.

While those policies are being written, first responders have been given more discretion on moving damaged cars out of the way to ensure the roads stay open. They won’t have to wait for city-contracted towing companies to get there.

The city released a minute-by-minute report that reviewed the response.

KIRO Radio’s Chris Sullivan contributed to this report.

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