updated 6/6/2007 1:52:33 PM ET 2007-06-06T17:52:33

A brush-cutter clearing blackberry bushes for a highway project accidentally killed a homeless man in a sleeping bag, authorities said.

Police had warned transients to leave the area last week and a special subcontracting crew had also worked to remove human waste, needles and other drug paraphernalia from a mile long section under the freeway.

The Transportation Department said the tractor, with an 18-foot rotary arm, had been operating for about a half hour Saturday morning when the man was hit.

Isaac Palmer, 62, died of skull fractures and brain lacerations caused by sharp and blunt-force head trauma, the King County medical examiner’s Office said.

The death was under investigation, and Transportation Secretary Douglas MacDonald said his staff would re-examine its procedures to prevent it from happening again.

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