ST. PAUL — A St. Paul Parks and Recreation employee was told a tent outside a recreation center was unoccupied and didn’t check it before he used a utility vehicle to remove it, which seriously injured a woman who was inside, police said Thursday, April 16.
Paramedics took the 49-year-old to Regions Hospital with significant injuries; she was in stable condition as of Wednesday night, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a St. Paul police spokesman.
“At a time when people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable, this tragedy is devastating,” Mayor Melvin Carter said in a statement Thursday. “I have reached out to express my remorse to the individual involved and to arrange for the city to cover medical bills that arise as a result of this incident, and I am working with my team to determine how this horrible accident occurred. We will continue to make every effort to protect our most vulnerable residents and to connect those experiencing homelessness to resources and support.”
The Parks and Rec worker was sent on Wednesday afternoon to remove a tent on the south side of the Arlington Hills Recreation Center, which is at Payne and Maryland avenues, according to police.
“It appeared to the worker that no one was occupying the tent, and as is common practice in the maintenance of park sites and the cleaning of abandoned sites, a four-wheel piece of equipment was employed to begin cleaning up the tent and debris,” said Peter Leggett, Carter’s communications director.
The worker was using a Bobcat utility vehicle that has a bucket on the front with a grapple. When he got the tent into the bucket, he realized someone was inside, immediately stopped to check on the person and called 911, according to Ernster.
“The city is working to determine what led to the effort to clean the area, and how it was not known that the tent was occupied,” Leggett said.
The worker, a city employee for two years who has a commercial driver’s license, has been placed on leave, which Leggett said is standard practice.