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April 19, 1999

Program aids man beaten unconscious in West Seattle park
'I'm appreciative to the likes of which I can't even begin to say'

TUMWATER -- John Edwin Irwin Jr. sensed something odd about the man who approached him April 10, 1998, at Westcrest Park and asked for a ride. Irwin politely declined the request.

"I smelled beer on his breath," Irwin recalled. "Things didn't seem right."

The man left, and Irwin quickly dismissed his thoughts. He went about enjoying a summer-like afternoon at the park in West Seattle. But about 2 p.m., as he strode a tree-shrouded path back to his car, the day and his life quickly darkened.

The same man who earlier had asked for a ride popped out of the trees and smacked Irwin in the head.

"I don't recall much about the attack," Irwin said. "I remember the man standing over me, saying, 'Give me your jewelry.' I'm really lucky, I guess, in that I don't remember the beating."

The man pummeled Irwin into unconsciousness. He stole Irwin's jewelry, including a diamond earring. Irwin lay on the ground for an hour. He came to and walked to his car and called 911. He recalls none of his actions.

"I only remember waking up in a hospital bed."

Bones were broken in his face, as were three ribs. His jaw was fractured in two places. His left eardrum was punctured. He had a compressed fracture of the vertebrae in his back. A rotator cuff in a shoulder was torn and required surgery. And he had boot marks on his face where his attacker kicked him.

Police never caught the assailant.

Irwin, 60, will be one of the featured speakers at Crime Victims Day April 26 in the auditorium of the Department of Labor & Industries building in Tumwater. He is one of the thousands of claimants who receive assistance from the Crime Victims Compensation Program managed by the department.

The event is part of national Crime Victims Awareness Week that begins April 26. The intent is to draw attention to the plight of crime victims and provide information about available assistance.

The Crime Victims Compensation Program at Labor & Industries annually receives between 5,600 to 5,800 claims. About 74 percent are accepted. Benefits include payments for time lost from work, medical care, pensions and mental-health counseling, among others.

Of the accepted claims, 68 percent are for women and children.  Seven of every 10 claims for children are related to sexual assault.

Since his attack, Irwin has been unable to work at Northwest Airlines, where he has been employed for 34 years, most recently as a flight attendant.

Benefits provided to Irwin include payments for time lost from work, medical bills not covered by his employer's insurance, and almost two months of occupational and physical therapy.

"I wasn't aware the program existed," Irwin said. "To go through all what victim experiences, then to encounter such help .

"I'm appreciative to the likes of which I can't even begin to say."

Following is the list of additional speakers April 26 at the L&I auditorium, 7273 Linderson Way S.W. The event begins at 10 a.m.

  • Bobbi Costa, Families and Friends of Violent Crime Victims.
  • Evan Ferber, Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County.
  • Tanya Murdock, Pierce County Victim-Witness Unit.
  • Keith Galbraith, Family Renewal Shelter, Tacoma.
  • Det. Casey Salisbury, Thurston County Sheriff's Office.
  • Cletus Nnanabu, program manager of L&I's Crime Victims Compensation Program.

More information about assistance for crime victims can be found on the Internet at: /insurance/cvc.htm

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