• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Contractor injured in freeway on-ramp collision

July 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A highway worker was badly injured Wednesday by a car that entered a freeway construction area in Riverside. It's the latest in a series of Caltrans incidents. This one happened at the Van Buren Boulevard on-ramp to the 91 Freeway.

The victim was not supposed to be at the site when the incident happened. According to co-workers, he came to the location to help put finishing touches on the Van Buren on-ramp, which was slated to open next week.

Once again Caltrans is coping with another highway worker injured on the job. The latest incident happened shortly before 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Barry Steele, 52, was working along the Van Buren on-ramp when he was struck head-on by an alleged drunk driver. He was hospitalized and remained in critical condition on life support Thursday night.

"There was another employee that was in the water truck. He saw the car passing him and he started pressing the horn, she didn't pay attention, and she kept going," said Riverside resident Juan Rojas.

Brandi Holmes of Riverside was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Holmes, 21, was allegedly driving with a suspended license.

Investigators say Holmes ignored signs warning of the ramp closure when she plowed through the area and hit construction equipment and a concrete rail before hitting Steele.

"Our officers apprehended her shortly after the collision," said CHP Officer Sylvia Vargas. "She did try and flee the scene, so she is pending several charges at this point."

Steele is part of a construction crew contracted by the city of Riverside to build the new on-ramp. Thursday the construction site was shut down.

"There are enough signs that tell the people the lanes are closed and the ramp is closed," said Rojas. "You see there are three signs that say 'ramp closed.'"

The incident is the fourth for Caltrans in just the last three months. The state transportation agency has lost three workers, killed while on the job.

Caltrans launched a safety campaign urging drivers to move over or slow down for highway workers.

"The time is now to move over, to slow down, to stop texting and driving, to stop talking on the phone and driving, and to stop drinking and driving," said Caltrans spokesperson Terri Kasinga. "We are not asking you -- we are telling you."

The suspect, Holmes, was released from the hospital and booked into the detention center in Riverside on three felony counts, including hit-and-run and two DUI charges.

Highway workers were set to return to the job site Friday. They plan to have the on-ramp open by next week.

Load Comments