A Conductor Sues Amtrak, a Family Gets Out of the Movie Business, and Sonic Comes to Kent

Plus, the Eastside comes together in support of its Muslim residents.

1. A Bellevue man is suing Amtrak, among other entities, for the injuries he sustained in the train derailment that killed at least three and injured more than 80 last month.

Garrick Freeman was a conductor in training when the derailment occurred in DuPont, Washington, according to a lawsuit filed in Pierce County Superior Court on Wednesday.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2017, Freeman was riding in the lead locomotive of Amtrak Cascades train 501 “for the sole purpose of training/familiarization as a conductor” for the route, documents state. He was sitting on the fireman’s side of the locomotive when the train “derailed and hurtled to a stop on Interstate 5.”

Filed by lawyers Joseph Grube and Karen K Orehoski of Breneman Grube Orehoski, PLLC and John Coletti of Paulson Coletti Trial Attorneys PC, the suit alleges the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak. and others—not yet named—are responsible for Freeman’s severe, permanent, and disabling injuries to his hip and ribs, which caused severe pain, suffering, and emotional shock.

To treat his injuries, he received expensive services from doctors and surgeons through x-rays, MRIs, medicine, appliances, surgery, hospitalization and household care.

Freeman alleges the defendants were negligent and is seeking damages for pain, suffering, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, future medical expenses, economic damages, earning capacity, and others in an amount to be proven at trial. Bellevue Reporter

2. Whenever there’s an event in downtown North Bend, there’s some element of it happening at the North Bend Theatre, on Bendigo Boulevard. It’s been a venue for the ongoing tradition of Blues and Jazz Walks, home base for the Relay for Life fundraising kickoff each winter, the annual home of the Banff Film Festival which launches on the night of the city’s annual tree lighting (preceded by the North Bend Mountain Film Festival—organized by the North Bend Theatre—in November and December)

It’s also hosted many a student film debut, was the destination for the 1992 premiere of the David Lynch movie Fire Walk with Me, which was a highlight of the first Twin Peaks Festival, and as one of the few venues in the city with seating for almost 300, served as a venue for countless other community events that drew large crowds.

And soon the building could be home to new owners, as Cindy Walker and her family prepare to leave the movie business behind.

“Our family embarked on this amazing journey as stewards of the North Bend Theatre nearly 12 years ago. It’s been a huge part of who we are for more than a decade and been one of the most interesting chapters of our lives,” Walker wrote in an announcement to the community about her plans to put the theater on the market. “As we seek a new owner opening their own new chapter at this amazing landmark, we plan to continue to be good stewards and find someone who appreciates the importance of the North Bend Theatre’s energy in the Snoqualmie Valley.”

It’s just the right time to do it, Walker told the Snoqualmie Valley Record in a phone conversation. The past year had been an eventful one for personal reasons, including the death of her father and a recently completed round of chemotherapy for a cancer diagnosis last May, Walker said.

“Life is moving on, and it just seems like it’s the right time for us,” she explained, but added, “We’re in no big hurry to sell it.” Snoqualmie Valley Record

3. After a few delays, it appears Sonic Drive-In will be opening this spring in Kent. And a new Starbucks will join Sonic on the northeast corner of 116th Avenue Southeast and Kent-Kangley Road.

“I am happy to report they have picked up their permits and they are under construction for both a Sonic Drive-In and a Starbucks,” said Ben Wolters, city economic and community development director, at the Jan. 2 City Council meeting. “There will be two opportunities there and certainly a much-needed improvement for that long derelict corner.

“We anticipate a spring opening and our fingers are crossed that we will be able to continue to work with them to meet that goal.”

The closest Sonic’s to Kent include Bonney Lake, Puyallup, two locations in Tacoma, Lacey, Olympia and Poulsbo. Starbucks has 17 locations in Kent.

Developers delayed plans last spring for a summer 2017 opening of Sonic when they had to find a new lender after the first one pulled out. City officials had announced in 2016 a potential 2017 opening.

It took longer because of more challenging financing and development issues, Wolters said last fall. City staff worked with the developer to allow access closer to the corner at the busy intersection. Kent Reporter

4. The vast majority of Eastside residents want the region to be a place where everyone—regardless of culture, nationality or religion—feels welcome.

And to help ensure that this dream becomes the reality, the Bellevue Police Department and Muslim Community and Neighborhood Association organized the second annual Muslim and Immigrant Safety Forum and Dinner on Jan. 3 at the Bellevue School District building.

While Washington state and the Puget Sound in particular are generally seen as tolerant places in comparison with the rest of the nation, the region has not been immune to hate crimes against Muslims. In January 2017, an arsonist set fire to the Bellevue Mosque. A sign in front of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound mosque in Redmond was vandalized twice in 2016.

“Given the climate we now live in, I wanna make Mercer Island a more welcoming community,” Mercer Island City Councilmember Benson Wong stated. He said that Mercer Island is overall a fairly welcoming place, but emphasized that the focus needs to be “not just tolerance, [but] accepting and embracing” other cultures.

Imam Faisal of the Bellevue Mosque began the proceedings with a blessing that emphasized the importance of peace in Islam. He explained that Muslims greet one another by saying that they offer only peace and no threat.

“It’s not just a religion—it’s a lifestyle,” he said. Bellevue Reporter