Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Driver dies after striking four workers, crashing on turnpike in Bensalem
Posted: Saturday, May 2, 2015
“This is a horrific trend, and it needs to stop now. Too many construction workers were sent to the hospital this week, and too many lives shattered. Though the cause of this morning’s disaster hasn’t yet been confirmed, experience tells us that speed and distraction are likely to blame,” commission Chairman Sean Logan said Saturday. “It sickens me that the people who are working to improve the Turnpike have become vulnerable targets because some motorists simply aren’t getting the message.”
A driver was killed and four construction workers injured — one seriously — in an accident along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bensalem on Saturday morning, the second incident in a construction zone in less than a week.
Authorities have not identified the driver who was killed.
Pennsylvania State Police, in a press release Saturday night, said the motorist was driving east in the right lane of the turnpike.
The left lane was closed for construction work at the time. State police said the dead motorist’s vehicle swerved into the left lane and sideswiped a work vehicle, then slammed into another work vehicle, shearing off the driver’s side doors and ejecting the driver, who was thrown onto the roadway.
The injured workers were Matthew J. Horton of Langhorne, the driver of the second vehicle, and Robert W. Devoll, of Barto, Berks County, the driver of the third vehicle. They were taken to Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol Township for evaluation, state police said. A third worker, Carl Johnston, of Line Lexington, sustained minor injuries. Johnston was taken to Frankford Torresdale Aria Hospital in Philadelphia for treatment.
James T. Beck III, of Elmer, Pennsylvania, suffered severe injuries and was transported by helicopter to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia for surgery, according to turnpike commission spokesman Carl DeFebo Jr..
The injured men are employed by PKF Mark III of Newtown and Meco Constructors Inc. of Bensalem, said turnpike spokeswoman Mimi Doyle.
The crash occurred shortly before 5:30 a.m. Saturday on the turnpike in a construction zone about 4 miles east of the Bensalem Interchange, according to a turnpike commission press release.
The men were performing work to reconstruct and widen 2.5 miles of the highway as part of the turnpike-I-95 connector project in Bucks County, Doyle said. The crew was working an overnight shift to set a single-lane traffic pattern eastbound in the left lane of the turnpike for temporary paving operations, Doyle said.
The crews were removing the pattern when the accident occurred. The vehicle that entered the construction zone and struck the workers had one occupant.
Saturday’s accident followed one that occurred on April 27 in Bedford County. In that incident, the driver was speeding in a work zone. When a state trooper conducting enforcement in the work area initiated a traffic stop, the driver swerved into the closed lane to evade arrest, striking a construction worker seriously injuring him. The driver was arrested and charged with aggravated assault by vehicle and driving under the influence.
Two weeks ago, the turnpike commission launched a campaign to get the public to slow down in construction work zones. Nearly 60 active construction projects are planned to start this year along the 360-mile stretch of highway.
“Operation Orange Squeeze,” announced in Bensalem, followed the deaths last year of two turnpike workers in the Philadelphia region — among 30 workers who have died statewide on the highway in construction zones since it opened.
In addition to the deaths, 150 crashes last year occurred in work zones statewide. Also, more than two dozen drivers struck attenuators — trailer-like vehicles mounted with digital signs that are used to warn drivers of upcoming construction zones.
In addition to TV spots, the work-zone safety campaign will include other advertising and public outreach, officials said. As part of the initiative, the turnpike is teaming up with Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, the unit in charge of patrols on the road, to expand its “Operation Orange Squeeze.” The work-zone traffic enforcement initiative was launched in 2013.
A state trooper will be stationed inside turnpike construction vehicles, including the orange dump trucks, running radar within work zones while a second trooper will wait outside the work zone to pull over drivers who violate the rules, officials said. The fine for traveling 11 mph or higher over the speed limit in a work zone is around $200 plus a 15-day suspension of the driver’s license.