Family Members of Construction Workers Killed in Accidents Talk Safety

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Kansas Department of Transportation kicked off National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week on Monday, April 6.

People wore orange vests to follow the theme "Behind the Vest," stressing that there are real people out there amongst the cones and equipment in work zones.

"I can tell you from my own personal experience there is no worse feeling than learning one of our fellow Kansas Department of Transportation employees has been hurt or killed within a work zone," said KDOT Assistant Secretary Jerry Younger. "We need to work together to improve safety and reduce these tragedies."

KDOT and other sponsors of National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week continue to focus on educating the public on the hazards that can be encountered in work zones and ways to increase safety for highway workers and the traveling public.

To help emphasize the dangers those workers face and the importance of paying attention in work zones, a video was shown airing interviews with construction workers affected by wreckless driving in work zones. The mother of Scott McDonald, who was killed in an accident while on the job, also spoke about the importance of work zone safety.

Scot McDonald III was killed June 1, 2005 when Mary Fritzsch swerved while driving southbound on Highway 75 and hit a parked KDOT truck then swerved into a ditch and hit McDonald. He was 24 years old.

Most recently, KDOT worker Tyrone Korte, 30, Seneca, and Rolland Griffith, 24, El Dorado, were hit by a pickup while working on a paving project on Highway 59 September 11th. Amanda Hopper was also hit in the accident and received minor injuries.

Kevin Palic, KDOT Construction Engineer, worked with Korte. He recalled arriving on the scene hoping the accident wasn't that bad. When he arrived he saw Korte and Griffith's bodies had already been covered, symbolizing they were already gone.

Palic recalled, "the sickening feeling wondering which one of these blankets is over Ty and then being able to recognize him by his foot sticking out from underneath the blanket. His boot lying in the middle of the road was difficult to deal with."

Palic said his message to people would simply be to drive with patience and attentiveness."Enter the work zone as if it is your parent, your spouse, child and friend's life is depending on it," Palic said. "Work zone safety is important. It is very important, trust me. You don't want to have to go out there and choose which blanket your friend is under."

Ramona Morgan, 49, of Washington state, was convicted on two counts of reckless second degree murder and one count of reckless aggravated battery. She was sentenced to 26 years in prison for driving the pickup that killed Korte and Griffith. Morgan is appealing her conviction.

National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, April 6-10, brings to light the dangers associated with driving in roadway construction and maintenance zones.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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