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Caltrans halts all work after 3rd employee killed

June 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Caltrans halted all routine work across the state on Monday after a third employee was killed while working on the highways.

With flags flying at half staff, every single work truck in a Caltrans yard in Riverside was parked, and every Caltrans maintenance worker was called off the job. Instead of working on local freeways, they sat and listened and thought about how dangerous their job really is.

"This is your family while you're here at work. You have got to keep each other's backs," said Caltrans District 8 Director Ray Wolfe.

Wolfe doesn't mince words when he calls the freeway a battlefield. But besides speaking to his troops, he had a message for all drivers.

"I don't like to be slowed down either when I'm headed somewhere, but we've got to take a moment and realize we have to do these maintenance operations to create safe access to where people need to go," he said.

The message comes after another Caltrans worker was killed on the job - the third such fatality in the past month and a half.

On May 4, a worker was struck and killed by a trolley in the San Diego area. The accident preceded an incident where a worker was killed on Interstate 8 by an out-of-control car.

On Monday, a worker was killed on Interstate 15 in San Diego, struck by a car while picking up trash on the freeway.

"Another one gone again today, you know, because of someone not doing what they're supposed to do, someone not caring about the job that we do," said Caltrans employee Emma Griffith.

Griffith has worked at Caltrans for 16 years. She says not only is she afraid of drivers going too fast and losing control, but at such high speeds, drivers can also unknowingly kick up debris, which can also be deadly.

"They pass by and they hit us and they keep going. Just the other day I had a rock hit the van that I was driving," she said. "The traffic has no respect for Caltrans."

Every Caltrans worker in California will be required to take a special four-hour safety training course. It is unknown when routine maintenance work will resume, but officials say it could resume as early as Tuesday.

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