ELMORE, Ohio — Amy Fletcher hopes new Ohio Turnpike safety signs will save others the grief she and her children suffered six years ago when her husband was killed in a work-zone crash.
“We don’t know what happened out there. We’ll never know, and it’s something I have a hard time living with,” Mrs. Fletcher said, her voice cracking, about the Jan. 24, 2012 crash near Fremont that killed Forest “John” Fletcher of Perrysburg and injured two co-workers.
Dedication ceremonies were held Friday morning for a sign at that location and for one near what is now Exit 13 outside Montpelier, Ohio. The second sign memorializes two turnpike workers killed in a 1997 crash on the exit ramp there. Tarps were removed during the day from the signs at the crash locations.
Randy Cole, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission’s executive director, said the goal of such signs is to put actual names into the message that motorists need to slow down and pay attention while passing work zones or emergency vehicles.
“Maybe we can save a life, and some good will come from the tragedy you suffered, Amy,” Mr. Cole said before introducing Mrs. Fletcher at the Elmore event.
“The motoring public seems to disregard your safety and not care,” Mrs. Fletcher said, addressing turnpike workers gathered in the ceremony’s audience. “...Some days it feels like we’re just spinning our wheels.”
Mr. Fletcher, 53, and the two co-workers — James Roudebush of Millbury, Ohio and Anthony J. Stout of Clyde, Ohio — were repairing a bridge when a tractor-trailer plowed through cones and hit them and their truck.
Truck driver Edward Mills of Doylestown, Ohio pleaded guilty to a first-degree misdemeanor vehicular homicide charge in Sandusky County. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and lost his commercial driver’s license for five years. At the time, Mr. Mills said he didn’t know what happened to cause the crash.
Mr. Cole said turnpike officials are “not quite sure” what else can be done to induce more drivers to change their behavior while driving through work zones or passing service or emergency vehicles.
“What I do not understand is the total disregard for the orange barrels, for the signs, for the law enforcement,” he said.
Also present at the Elmore dedication was Mr. Stout, who said he has no memory at all of the crash after which he endured “a long two to three years of rehabilitation, therapy, and multiple surgeries” that included facial reconstruction and treatment for traumatic brain injury.
He credited his wife and daughter with keeping him “healthy and happy” during the ordeal, but doubts he’ll ever go back to roadway maintenance; he now works in house construction.
The sign dedicated and unveiled later Friday in Williams County is in memory of Duane Cisek and Richard Yoh, who were installing pavement reflectors on the ramp for what was then Exit 2 when a pickup truck hit them.
Mr. Cole said honoring the turnpike’s 50-mph speed limit instead of barreling through at 70 “adds just 10 seconds to your trip” for a typical half-mile maintenance zone, while the 2½ minutes of extra time to pass through a seven-mile reconstruction area at 50 “is not an unrealistic investment for somebody to make in their day” to be safe.
Lt. Rick Reeder, commanding officer of the Ohio Highway Patrol’s turnpike post in Milan, said turnpike troopers last year began using aerial patrols to assist in enforcement, resulting in 3,800 traffic stops related to construction zones.
The stepped-up work-zone enforcement had positive results, the lieutenant said: a 22 percent reduction in crashes, a 44-percent decline in injury crashes, and no work-zone fatalities at all during 2017 on the turnpike.
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