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Road workers' deaths rare in W.Va.

July 21, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Flagmen who work for the state Department of Transportation must be knowledgeable about proper traffic control procedures and attend monthly safety meetings that help highway workers stay safe on the job, an agency spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The emphasis on safety is important to protect highway workers from accidents like the one Monday in which a flagman died after being struck by a car in a construction zone at the entrance to the Huntfield development, said spokeswoman Susan Watkins.

Michael Carleton Snyder, 28, of Jefferson, Md., was directing traffic in the construction zone when he was struck by the front corner passenger side of a 2004 Pontiac Sunfire, according to Charles Town Police Department officials.

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Snyder then hit the windshield and was thrown an unknown distance, police said. Snyder's legs were broken and he had head injuries, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver of the car, Lee James Crawford, 48, of Keyser, W.Va., skidded more than 100 feet when Snyder was struck shortly after 10 a.m., said Charles Town Police Chief Mike Aldridge.

Aldridge said Tuesday that his department was awaiting the completion of an accident reconstruction report that hopefully will provide details such as how fast Crawford was traveling.

When people are hired as flagmen by the state Department of Transportation, they must either be familiar with traffic control procedures or get training if they are not, Watkins said.

Monthly safety meetings are held in every county to keep highway workers up-to-date on how to do their jobs safely, Watkins said. The meetings cover various issues, such as how to properly operate mowing equipment or control traffic, Watkins said.

Highway officials reviewed their records over the last five years and could not find any incident in which a flagman was killed, Watkins said. Some highway officials could not remember any flagmen being killed, Watkins said.

"It's very rare for that to happen. A lot of that goes back to the emphasis on safety," Watkins said.

Many times, police will assist in making construction zones safe by placing officers at the sites. The officers usually are stationed in their cruisers and have their emergency lights on.

Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober said that is an effective way of slowing down traffic at a construction zone, but he does not have enough deputies to do that type of traffic control.

In Charleston, W.Va., some police agencies have put mannequins in cruisers where they are trying to control speeding, Watkins said.

Snyder was working for a private company that was providing flagmen and building a new turn lane to the Huntfield development, Aldridge said.

Officials with Snyder's company, CHS Inc. of Frederick, Md., declined to comment Tuesday.

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