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UW Student Dies – Icy Sidewalk Slip & Fall

The recent cold weather has claimed the life of a University of Washington student today. According to a statement released by Major Steve Rittereiser of the UW Campus Police, this morning at 10:31 am, both UW Police and Seattle Fire responded to a woman down on a sidewalk east of Drumheller Fountain. The 19-year-old sophomore was transported to Harborview Medical Center due to a severe head injury sustained as a result of the slip-and-fall. The cause of the fall has not yet been determined and UWPD Detectives are investigating.

 “We are all deeply stunned by this unfortunate accident.” – Maj. Steve Rittereiser, UWPD

When asked why the student was sent to UW Harborview Medical Center, 5.7 miles from the site of the accident, instead of UW Medical Center, only 1.2 miles from the site, Maj. Rittereiser stated that the determination was made by the Seattle Fire Department’s emergency medical professionals on the scene. According to UW Medicine Director of Media Relations, Susan Gregg, the student arrived at Harborview in critical condition and passed away shortly thereafter.

A charge nurse at UWMC Emergency Department confirmed that while Harborview is the region’s only level one trauma center, slip-and-fall head traumas can be handled by their ED and are not automatically routed to Harborview unless the scope of the injury is beyond their capabilities. UWMC’s emergency department is “equipped to treat the most complex and critical emergency medical conditions and illnesses,” suggesting there may be additional information not yet released regarding any extenuating circumstances surrounding the incident, including the severity of the student’s injuries.

According to the Seattle Municipal Code, snow and ice must be cleared from sidewalks promptly, and if practical, prevent it from becoming potentially hazardous. Snow emergency routes shall be the first roads to be either sanded or cleared of snow when weather safely allows. UW maintains an active Snow Removal Progress site which currently shows snow removal efforts concluded on the sidewalks in the area of the accident.

Students at UW have expressed fear and concern over today’s accident and the icy conditions campus-wide, taking to Twitter to speak out:

Update: Feb 7, 2019

Earlier today, UWPD issued an update regarding yesterday’s fatality of a student, now identified as Hayley Smith.

  • Detectives were able to identify witnesses and are following up with each of the witnesses today
  • Detectives determined there was both ice and clear, dry patches on the sidewalk in and around the area where the victim fell
  • Detectives will likely substantially complete their investigation by tomorrow afternoon
  • The next of kin received notification


The King Country Medical Examiner has since ruled the student died of natural causes due to a pulmonary embolism and not from as slip and fall, as was first reported. Cliff Peng, identified as Smith’s boyfriend, stated that he witnessed the entire incident.

“I saw it happen right in front of my own eyes. We were just on our way from one class to the next. She told me to ‘wait a moment,’ to catch a breath and stepped off to the side to move way for others, and the next thing I knew, she was on the ground, broken glasses and blood all over. We call the emergency services right away. They tried their best to save her, her consciousness came and went until it finally faded away….”

statement was also released today by the UW President, Ana Mari Cauce, addressing the issue of campus safety and inclement weather conditions. Cauce stated that she spoke with the student’s family, but did not give any further details on yesterday’s incident. This is the first statement released by the Office of the President comes in the midst of student outcry criticizing the administration’s lack of comment on recent instances of campus violence and safety concerns.

This is an ongoing story and will be updated. 

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