IOSCO COUNTY, Mich. — A semi-truck crashed into two stopped vehicles in a construction zone Nov. 5 on U.S. 23, killing 47-year-old Shawn Kelley, of Hubbard Lake, and 39-year-old Jennifer Arocha, of Mikado.
Kelley was working as a flag operator in the construction zone when the semi-truck driver, 83-year-old Walter Willett, of Fairgrove, apparently failed to stop at a stop sign he was holding up about 8:30 a.m., according to a local news report. Willett struck Kelley, as well as a GMC Envoy and Goyette van that had stopped for Kelley’s one-way traffic direction.
The semi-truck continued traveling through the construction zone before coming to rest and catching fire. The impact pushed the GMC driven by Arocha into the Goyette, and the GMC burst into flames.
Both Arocha and Kelley were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. The driver of the van was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries. Willett was also taken to the hospital to be evaluated and have his blood drawn as part of the crash investigation.
Traffic on the stretch of U.S. 23 where the accident occurred had been reduced to one lane for a sewer project when the accident happened.
No additional details about factors that may have contributed to the accident have been released by authorities, though the Oscoda Township Police Department is conducting an investigation, and criminal charges have not been ruled out.
COMMENTARY ON THE FATAL SEMI ACCIDENT IN IOSCO COUNTY
I am deeply saddened to learn of the awful collision that took the lives of Shawn Kelley and Jennifer Arocha in their prime. This is a complex chain-reaction accident involving multiple vehicles that will require a highly skilled, experienced team of professionals to fully and thoroughly investigate. I express my heartfelt sympathy to the families, friends, and loved ones of the deceased.
The question that has milled around in my mind since reading the news report is, “Why did the driver of the semi-truck fail to observe the construction zone stop sign?” The area had been reduced to a single lane to allow construction crews to work on a sewer project and appears to have been clearly marked. Did the truck incur a mechanical malfunction? Was poor visibility in the morning light a factor? Did Mr. Willett have a medical emergency or a tragic moment of distraction? Authorities obviously have not ruled out the possibility that the semi driver was under the influence, since it is reported that he was taken to the hospital for evaluation, and criminal charges have not been ruled out.
Serious accidents and fatalities are more common than you might expect in construction zones. The number fatal crashes occurring in construction and maintenance work zones averages about 772 per year, according to a report by the Federal Highway Administration. The report indicates that a total of 27,037 individuals lost their lives in work zone crashes between 1982 and 2017. This statistic accounts for all fatalities in work zones. However, an average of 123 workers are involved in fatal work-related accidents at construction sites each year.
Recognizing that highway work zones are dangerous areas, construction crews must adhere to Federal Department of Transportation and OSHA safety regulations. It is imperative that temporary traffic control devices, barricades, concrete barriers, directional cones, and highly visible clothing are provided and used in a manner to slow traffic, direct it, or stop it as needed.
Drivers must also recognize the inherent dangers of work zones, observe temporary speed limits and directional signs, and remain alert and courteous.
By observing these tried-and-true guidelines, accidents will be avoided, and lives saved.
Disclaimer: All of the information contained within this post was compiled from public sources or constitutes the opinion of the author. Please inform us immediately if you identify any false or misleading information.