Abels & Annes

Horrific road construction accident a stark reminder of the danger faced by road crews

A Hammond man is facing serious criminal charges for a car accident that claimed the life of a construction worker 30 minutes south of Chicago in northwest Indiana.

The victim was working on a night road crew, filling potholes, when a car slammed into him in the construction zone on I-80. The victim flew through the windshield and landed in the front seat of the car. The accident happened so fast a coworker was left standing next to the victim’s yellow construction vest in a pool of blood, according to the Chicago Breaking News Center.

Both Indiana and Illinois have tough laws aimed at protecting road construction workers from serious or fatal work accidents. The National Work Zone Awareness Week is coming April 6 to 10, and will include a safety awareness campaign conducted by Illinois Work Zone Safety Partners.

In this case, the victim’s co-worker barely escaped injury.

“My hand to God, I don’t know why I’m not dead,” the co-worker said in a media interview. “I was standing close enough to him to hold his hand.”

In 2008, there were 7,813 Illinois road construction accidents, which killed 31 people and injured 1,985, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation. Of those, 7,360 occurred in urban areas, primarily Chicago.

Employees who are seriously injured in road construction accidents in Illinois may be entitled to workers’ compensation and other benefits.

The 35-year-old driver, a Calumet City native, was charged Friday with reckless homicide and failure to stop at a fatal crash. He faces up to 16 years in prison if convicted. He was charged the same day as the funeral for the victim, who was a father of two.

The defendant’s drivers license has been suspended four times since 1998, including once for refusing to take a breath test, state authorities reported.

The victim’s friend and co-worker said he stood in front of the car in an attempt to stop it from fleeing the scene. He said the defendant began fleeing on foot and the car started to roll into the traffic lane. The construction worker stopped the car, while watching the driver flee on foot.

Indiana State Police found the driver 21 hours later, hiding in an alley just miles from the scene of the crash. Several beer containers were found in the 1993 Mercury Cougar and authorities say he admitted to drinking before the crash.