MoDOT worker who survived crash advocates for better safety practices

More than four months after a driver ran over a MoDOT crew in a work zone, the case is still under investigation.
Published: Apr. 3, 2022 at 10:33 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- More than four months after a driver ran over a MoDOT crew in a work zone, the case is still under investigation. There are growing questions about what is taking so long.

The MoDOT worker who survived is speaking publicly for the first time since the crash. Michael Brown suffered life-long injuries in the crash. Brown questioned the investigation and claimed that MoDOT has a potentially life-saving tool that it doesn’t always use.

“If something is not done he [the driver] could be out there and hit me again while working,” Brown said. “How can he in good conscious in good faith continue to drive on the roads knowing what he did?”

On Nov. 18 Brown was working his usual shift at MoDOT restriping roads. His crew was on Telegraph Road at I-255 in South County when a driver crashed through the site.

The crash killed 58-year-old James Brooks and 25-year-old Kaitlyn Anderson, along with her unborn son Jaxx.

Anderson was nearly 6 months pregnant at the time. Jaxx’s due date was last week.

Brown says the crew never saw the car coming.

“We all had our high vis on, our hard hats. It don’t do much when you got a box of metal coming at you at 40, 45 miles an hour,” Brown said. “We had our cones set up behind us and the guy just drove through the cones and hit us.”

Brown says his life will never be the same after the crash. He suffered a traumatic brain injury and severe injuries to his left leg and arm.

“They put a rod through my leg. It was almost amputated,” Brown said.

The driver hasn’t been charged. Public records from the Missouri State Highway Patrol name the driver as 52-year-old Stanley McFadden from Hillsboro.

A witness who asked News 4 to hide her identity did an interview days after the crash. The witness claimed she saw the driver moving erratically through traffic just before she saw him drive into the work zone.

“I just couldn’t believe he didn’t stop,” the witness said in an interview last November. How could you not? I could see it from the light, the MoDOT truck and the cones, how could he not see that?”

News 4 Investigates tried to ask the driver about what happened and stopped by the gated community where he lives. He never answered News 4′s calls.

Missouri driver records, which are publicly available, show the driver has multiple speeding tickets. In 1991 he got so many in a short period of time that his license was suspended for a month. Then in 2007, he was charged with careless and imprudent driving. News 4 investigates found police records showing that charge was linked to a crash in Festus.

Nothing on the driver’s record shows the deadly crash from November.

“Why has nothing been done?” Brown asked.

Brown and his girlfriend, Heather Ballard, said they want answers from St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, whose office is looking into the case.

“He’s the one that’s injured, he deserves to know what is going on with his case and he can’t get anything out of them,” Ballard said.

Ballard and Brown both question why they’re still waiting to see if the county prosecutor will file charges.

“The prosecutor has to keep going over the case because of the driver’s claim of a diabetic episode,” Brown said.

Bell sent the following statement to News 4 Investigates regarding this story:

“We have not yet received additional records that we requested, so this case remains under advisement. As such, it would be irresponsible for us to discuss the case publicly, given that it’s an ongoing and active investigation. Because of the understandable public interest in this case, we will announce when the investigation is concluded and a charging decision has been made. Finally, we understand the grief and impatience of those impacted by this tragedy, but our condolences can’t hurry the process of ensuring a detailed and thorough investigation.”

Bell’s office did not clarify what additional records it is waiting on or say who they need the records from.

A spokesman for the Missouri State Highway Patrol told News 4 Investigates the department turned over the case file a little over a month ago.

While they wait for answers, Brown and his family are turning their attention to making work zones safer.

“MoDOT workers need to be protected,” Ballard said.

The family wants to see more protective equipment on the road. Specifically Truck- and Trailer- Mounted Attenuators, commonly called TMAs. A TMA is designed to absorb impact in a crash, helping save workers and the driver.

There was not a TMA with the striping crew when McFadden ran into the MoDOT work zone.

“One of us could have been in that truck following and gotten out to help the crew,” Brown said.

Brown said he’s been in several work zones where a car hit the TMA. He says each time his team walked away unharmed.

“They need to protect their people while they’re out there,” Brown added.

TMAs have been taking more hits. News 4 Investigates uncovered MoDOT records that show that in two years the number of crashes nearly doubled, with 61 happening in 2021 compared to 33 in 2019.

Despite a growing number of crashes, TMAs are not always required. MoDOT policy says on roads where the speed limit is less than 45 miles an hour, TMAs are optional.

On Telegraph Road the speed limit is 40 mph.

“Five more miles an hour, what’s the difference? Something needs to change, the blind eye needs to stop,” Ballard said.

According to MoDOT’s website, the department owns more than 300 TMAs.

News 4 Investigates asked MoDOT if it’s considering using TMAs on more calls and if the crash prompted a review of safety policies. At first a MoDOT spokeswoman said she couldn not talk because there is pending legal action. She later said there isn’t a pending case but MoDOT still wouldn’t do an interview writing in an email, “no we are not doing interviews on this.”

Brown said he wants MoDOT to make good on the promise posted on its website, “the ultimate goal is zero fatalities.”

“From day one I was told we’re going to protect you,” Brown said.

There’s is a push to change state law to make road crews safer. The family of Kaitlyn Anderson and her unborn baby Jaxx recently met with lawmakers. There’s now a bill on the Senate floor and a matching bill in the House, which the family calls “Kaitlyn’s law.” Among other things, it would allow people to sue the state for punitive damages if they are harmed when the state violates safety rules.

Kaitlyn’s family is organizing a protest outside MoDOT headquarters in Jefferson City on Friday, April 15.

Brown and his family are holding an event on April 23 to mark the beginning of work zone awareness week. That’s being held at the Grand Slam Bar & Grill in Fenton from noon to 10 p.m. You can find out more about the event and ways to help the Brown family here.