On the night of April 11, sophomore Preston Crenshaw only remembers two sounds — the rumble of a rusted metal catwalk snapping beneath the weight of his friend and the electric whir of an ambulance siren rushing into the early morning darkness.
An hour later, Crenshaw remembers standing in the waiting room of the Harborview Medical Center waiting to hear if his friend and co-worker Nathan Preece would live after a 40-foot fall onto a barbed-wire fence from atop one of the fenced-off structures at Gas Works Park.
“Nate is always doing reckless things… Pretty much everywhere he goes, he brings excitement,” Crenshaw said. “Most of my breath-holding moments have to do with Nate diving into waters I know nothing about.”
Crenshaw said that doctors originally reported Preece, a former SPU sophomore, to be in critical condition. Preece was released from Harborview last week with minor injuries and head trauma.
Crenshaw said that he and Preece came up with the idea to explore Gas Works Park after working at a catering event at the University District’s Hotel Deca.
“It was around midnight and we had just finished work,” Crenshaw said. “We had wanted to do something fun … but everyone was back at the dorms and had started their weekend adventures.”
While walking through the park, Crenshaw and Preece discovered a hole in the chain-link fence surrounding the abandoned gas refinery structures. Both avid climbers, Crenshaw and Preece decided to squeeze through the opening and explore the structures. After a few minutes of climbing, Crenshaw said he saw Preece walk down a catwalk and around the corner of one of the abandoned structures.
“I heard this super loud rumbling,” Crenshaw said. “I started yelling for him, looking around on the catwalks, thinking that he was hiding.”
After hearing the rumble, Crenshaw said he raced down the structure to find a group of people gathered around Preece. Minutes later, paramedics arrived and rushed Preece to the hospital.
Sophomore Ryan Allred, Preece’s roommate, said that after being released from the hospital, Preece returned to his home in Livermore, Calif., to recover with his family.
“He doesn’t remember most of what happened around the time of the accident,” Allred said. “He’s still in a neck brace, but he’s doing really good.”
Allred said that though Preece is no longer enrolled at Seattle Pacific, he plans on returning next year. Currently, Preece is enrolled in physical, cognitive and speech therapies.
Last spring, a 19-year-old man suffered life-threatening injuries after falling 30 feet from one of the fenced-off structures. In 2012, a 25-year-old man was taken to Harborview after falling 10 feet from an old fuel tank at the park. Another was taken to Harborview in critical condition after attempting to scale a fence topped with razor wire.
“I encourage people to do crazy things,” Crenshaw said. “But don’t become so infatuated with it that you can’t step back and make wise judgments.”
News editor Alex Cnossen contributed reporting to this story.