07/04/10 — June proves deadly on local roadways

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June proves deadly on local roadways

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 4, 2010 1:50 AM

June was a dangerous month for roadway accidents in eastern North Carolina.

At least seven people with ties to Wayne or Duplin County, including four Department of Transportation workers, were injured or killed in vehicle accidents this month.

State DOT worker Jonathan King, 21, of Autryville was struck and killed June 2 by a tractor-trailer truck while on an I-40 job site in Duplin County. Employee Bradley Williams of Autryville was also injured in the accident.

Weeks later, Department of Transportation workers Shawn Strickland and John Gross were injured June 16 in a wreck on N.C. Highway 55 West in Wayne County when another driver rear-ended their vehicle.

Work zone accidents injured more than 1,200 people and killed 11 others in 2009, according to state statistics. Half of work zone accidents are related to speeding or distracted driving.

Department of Transportation workers are given extensive training to teach them how to stay safe on the job, and undergo safety audits to make sure they are staying up-to-date with the latest in safety news, N.C. Department of Transportation Communications Officer Jennifer Garifo said.

"Each group also has 'Tailgate Safety Meetings' that they do every morning before heading out to work in the field. They also have monthly safety meetings. Needless to say, safety training is truly ongoing," she said.

Department of Transportation employee orientation includes videos and other materials to teach safe operating producers including mounting and dismounting vehicles, work zone precautions and common hazards, how to use protective equipment and how to react when an incident occurs. The department also conducts incident investigations and audits and hosts safety committees as needed.

However, drivers passing through work zones must be alert for road workers and follow instructions to keep themselves and DOT employees safe. The state Department of Transportation encourages drivers to be alert, obey posted speed limits, minimize distractions and expect the unexpected when behind the wheel.

The N.C. Highway Patrol serves as an additional safety precaution for workers. State law adds $250 to any speeding fine incurred in a work zone.

"We work with the Highway Patrol to patrol the work zones, ones that are of a higher profile with more traffic and accidents," Ms. Garifo said.

The office also conducts education outreach among school-age children, visiting schools with mascots to spread the word and presenting work zone safety at driver's education classes.

The following work zones are planned for Wayne County:

*Until Dec. 31: Airport Road closed near Pikeville, both directions, near SR-1534 (Norwayne School Road.

*Until Dec. 31: Arrington Bridge (SR-1915) near Seven Springs, closed with detour for bridge replacement.

The state Department of Transportation will not be working on road projects over the Fourth of July holiday, but travelers are urged to use caution on busier-than-normal roads as they travel.

Several pedestrians were killed by vehicles in June. Malachi Josiah Davis, 8, of South N.C. Highway 41 near Beaulaville died June 19 after the child reportedly walked into the road near his home. No charges will be filed, according to the Duplin Highway Patrol.

Victor Ceja-Fuentes, 19, of Pikeville died in the early hours of June 27 after being hit by a car on I-795 near Pikeville-Princeton Road. Wayne County District Attorney Branny Vickory said the investigation into the accident is still pending further information from the Highway Patrol.

Charges have been filed in the case of King's death. Truck driver Ernest Harris, 47, of St. Pauls who sustained minor injuries in the accident, was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, failure to maintain lane control, failure to reduce speed and reckless driving.

Former Pikeville resident and business owner Ghassen "Gus" Sabra, 52, was killed June 3 in a hit-and-run accident in Maryland. Maryland police are still investigating Sabra's death.

Mount Olive resident and North Duplin High School graduate Ashley Cartwright, 19, died June 28 in a single vehicle accident after her car ran off the road, struck a ditch and hit two trees.