Thursday, April 17, 2003

Truck goes off road, kills I-275 construction worker

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HEBRON - One worker died and another was hurt Wednesday morning on a widening project on Interstate 275 when they were hit by a truck near the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Three workers were forced to dive for cover when an out-of-control semi pulling two trailers - one of which flipped on its side - careened through the construction zone.

The injured man was in critical condition Wednesday night. The third made it to safety.

Maj. Jack Banks, spokesman for the Boone County sheriff, said Johnny L. Jenkins of Enid, Miss., was driving his tractor-trailer at the posted speed limit when the tires of the trailer went off the road near the 10-mile marker between the Hebron and Petersburg exits. One of the twin trailers he was hauling flipped on its side and Jenkins lost control of the truck.

Richard Schwartz, 48, of Salt Lick died at the scene. Alan Swayn, 23, of Peebles, Ohio, was taken by helicopter to University Hospital in Cincinnati.

Both worked for contractor W.L. Harper of Hebron. Officials from the company were unavailable for comment.

Jenkins, 47, was transporting ingredients used in making cotton candy for Overnite Transportation of Oklahoma City. Ira Rosenfeld, spokesman for the trucking company, said Jenkins is a veteran truck driver who hadn't had a reportable wreck in 12 years.

Banks said Jenkins is not facing charges. He said there have been several wrecks of commercial vehicles in the construction zone over the last several months.

The wrecks come at the start of the highway construction season and after officials kicked off a highway safety campaign.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet this month began a $12,000 campaign to coincide with National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Five people were killed and 203 injured in work zones in Kentucky last year.

"The accident emphasizes the dangers our workers face every day in work zones and the need for all of us to be extra cautious while driving in work zones," said Robin Jenkins, a Transportation Cabinet spokeswoman.

Schwartz is the second construction worker killed on Greater Cincinnati interstates this year. A Northside man died Feb. 10 after he was hit by a car while installing a security fence in the median of Interstate 75 near Monroe.

Nationally, the number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in work zones over the past five years has risen from 693 in 1997 to 1,079 in 2001.


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