Toddler pricks finger on used needle aboard MAX train, family says

Photo of where the needle was found alongside a syringe KATU reporters found at the Gateway Transit Center (KATU photos)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) – A two-year-old girl pricked her finger on a used needle Tuesday afternoon while riding with her family on a MAX train, her parents tell KATU News.

Transit police are investigating and reviewing video of the incident.

Elizabeth and Brian Higby say they were riding the MAX Green Line from the Clackamas Town Center to Gateway Transit Center at about 1 p.m. Tuesday afternoon with their two-year-old daughter. Elizabeth said they didn't notice anything when they sat down. Her daughter was sitting in her lap.

"She reached behind me and it was tucked underneath the seat. She said, 'Owie momma. Owie.' I turned around and looked back and I saw a needle," Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth said the needle was in a crevice between the seat and a shelf immediately behind it.

“Her hand was back there. And there was a syringe sitting right here,” Higby said, pointing to the crevice.

The Higbys were frantic. They say they got off the train at Gateway and went to the closest urgent care. After that, they went to Randall Children's Hospital to get their daughter checked out. They feared the worst.

"I'm like, 'My daughter has AIDS. she's going to die of Hepatitis. What was in that needle? Did she get drugs in her system?'" Elizabeth asked.

Family said doctors did not think their daughter contracted anything. They said they will go back in a few months for more tests.

The family said they won't feel comfortable until they know for sure.

A spokesperson for TriMet told KATU News in a statment that this is a frightening situation and they hope the girl will be okay.

"Our staff is investigating and reviewing video of the incident. It is not unheard of for our service workers to find and remove hypodermic needles when they clean our vehicles. However, we do not track the number," said Roberta Alstadt, a TriMet spokesperson.

TriMet sweeps and cleans their buses and trains at the end of every night.

"Anyone may leave an item behind at any time so we encourage all riders to check an area before they or their family members sit down. This is also a good practice anywhere, whether on transit, in a park or any public place. Should any rider ever see something concerning on a TriMet vehicle, we encourage them to alert the bus or rail operator or another TriMet employee," Alstadt said.

Needles aren't just a TriMet issue though, it's city wide. For example, Portland Downtown Clean and Safe picked up nearly 17,000 needles in 2016. That is the most recent data on their website. KATU News found multiple needles on the ground at Gateway Transit Center in less than five minutes of looking for them.

After this incident, the Higbys want to get the message out to Portlanders.

“Just look, do an extra look. Take that extra second to take that look. She was in her mom’s arms, it was just that hand, that fast, poked her in the finger,” Brian said. "I love her with all my heart, I can't imagine her getting sick over someone else's negiligence."

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