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Crash that killed two MoDOT workers prompts calls to improve worker safety

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 9:04 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A deadly MoDOT work zone crash is prompting new calls to improve safety for crews on the road.

News 4 Investigates is continuing to take a closer look at the crash, which killed two workers, one who was pregnant with a baby boy. A third worker was left with lifelong injuries.

A former MoDOT Assistant Supervisor for the Signing and Striping Department is questioning why the crew was sent out with safety gear that MoDOT has, but isn’t always required to use.

“There’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t have protection, none,” said Fred Chew, who left MoDOT several months before the deadly crash. “They wouldn’t be dead. That little baby would probably be born,”

Chew worked at MoDOT for nearly 14 years. While at the Signing and Striping Department, Chew says it was part of his job to help assign crews and equipment. Chew says it’s his former crew that was restriping Telegraph Road at I-255 in South County last November when they were run over.

“For a job to cost people their lives, just not worth it,” Chew said.

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.

In a recent News 4 Investigation, Michael Brown, the worker who survived, spoke publicly for the first time. He’s questioning why months later the case is still under investigation and why MoDOT has safety gear that it doesn’t always use.

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

A recent News 4 Investigation uncovered how MoDOT has more than 300 trucks and trailers designed to protect crews, but doesn’t always use them.

Truck and Trailer Mounted Attenuators, also known as TMA’s, absorb impact in a crash with the goal of saving lives.

MoDOT policy says on roads where the speed limit is 45 mph or below, a TMA is optional. The speed limit on Telegraph Road is 40 mph. The crew didn’t have a TMA when they were hit.

“All had our high vis on, our hard hats,” Brown explained. “It don’t do much when you got a box of metal coming at you at 40, 45 miles an hour.”

The decision to send a TMA falls on supervisors, a call Chew says he used to make daily.

“The way I was taught, always have a protection vehicle,” Chew said.

When asked what he wanted to see change in MoDOT policy, Chew responded, “There shouldn’t be anybody in a lane or in a shoulder without some kind of protection behind them.”

For Chew, safety shouldn’t be an option, arguing an extra truck on the road could change if someone makes it home.

“How much is a life worth? If you care about your employees, protect them,” Chew said.

News 4 Investigates asked MoDOT if it’s reviewing any policies since the crash, the department chose not to comment.

The driver hasn’t been charged.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell says his office is still looking into the case. Bell says his office is waiting on additional records but wouldn’t say what those are or who they need them from.

Missouri Highway Patrol tell News 4 it passed the case file to prosecutors more than a month ago.