3 Worker Deaths Prompt Caltrans Review

By Michael Gehlken
|  Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 4:38 PM PDT
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Caltrans Employee Killed During Routine Task

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Caltrans Employee Killed During Routine Task

Richard Gonzalez, 52, was fatally struck by a vehicle Monday morning on Interstate 15 while picking up debris, the latest in a recent series of work-related deaths that have been "devastating to the Caltrans family."
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The deaths of three California Department of Transportation workers in two months are prompting authorities to review safety procedures and to warn motorists to drive carefully through highway work zones.

Department officials said Thursday they don't know who is to blame for the deaths in San Diego and Imperial counties because investigations are ongoing. The maintenance workers were not protected by concrete barriers when they were struck by cars.

The Caltrans district director in those two counties said highway worker fatalities have declined in recent years, but there have been an alarming number of close calls in which drivers swerved into work zones and struck workers.

The department has been posting messages on more than 700 electronic highway signs reminding drivers to watch out for maintenance workers.

Before early May, no state highway worker in the region had been killed in the line of duty since 1994.

Richard Gonzalez, 52, was struck before 9 a.m. June 20 while picking up debris on northbound Interstate 15 at the eastbound state Route 94 on-ramp. His funeral was held Wednesday.

Stephen Palmer Sr. died on May 4 in National City; Jaime Obeso passed June 7 near El Centro, Imperial County.

After Gonzalez' death, Caltrans ordered all its maintenance workers statewide to stand down from their duties for the rest of the day.

A memorial fund has been set up for each of the three workers' families. Those who wish to donate are instructed to send checks to CTF; 581 La Sierra Dr.; Sacramento, CA 95864.

Donations can be distinguished by writing Gonzalez Memorial, Obeso Memorial or Palmer Memorial on the check's memo line.

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