April 22, 2013
A construction worker was killed Monday in a fiery semi crash along Interstate 71, allegedly after signs warned motorists of the work zone ahead.
Ohio Department of Transportation worker Lee Rizor, 27, of Mt. Gilead, was pronounced dead on the scene, according to the Delaware Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Rizor was operating a backhoe while cleaning debris from behind a guardrail, ODOT stated in a release, when a tractor trailer drove off the right side of the road and crashed into the backhoe.
The semi flipped on its side and became engulfed in flames. Its driver, Dwayne Allen Hill Sr., 59, of Ashland, Va., was taken to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in critical condition.
The OSHP was unsure what led Hill to veer off the road. Trooper Paul Barnes said nothing is being ruled out at this time.
Work zone related crashes such as these are rare, but still too common, ODOT director Jerry Wray said.
“Workzone safety is something we’re very concerned with,” Wray said. “Our folks are out there, trying to do a job. They are in harm’s way.”
Wray said Rizor was accompanied by a “safety buffer truck,” which carries a lighted board to alert motorists of the construction work on the shoulder. He said he was told the truck driver must have passed the buffer truck, then veered into Rizor’s work area.
Wray said ODOT is awaiting the completion of OSHP’s investigation to determine if anything could be done to further prevent fatalities.
“We always are looking for whether or not our procedures are safe,” he said. “We are relying on the investigation on the accident to tell us exactly what happened.”
ODOT has been proactive about educating the private and public sector about work zone safety, Wray said, and hopes motorists would be diligent about heeding the reduced speed limit signs.
Rizor had worked as a highway technician for ODOT for five years, according to the department.
“Our hearts are heavy at ODOT today as we lost an employee in a very tragic accident,” Wray wrote in the release. “He left home this morning with the expectation that he would return to his family at the end of the work day unharmed. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rizor family during this very difficult time,” said Wray.
The crash occurred in the northbound lane, near mile post 124 in the Polaris area. Lanes were blocked for nearly eight hours as troopers investigated the scene. All four lanes of traffic were opened by around 5 p.m. Monday.