HICKMAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – A worker with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) was killed and three others injured in a crash involving a semi on Interstate 40.
According to Lt. Bill Miller with the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP), a TDOT crew with three vehicles was in route to a job when they discovered they had a flat tire about 9:40 a.m.
All three TDOT vehicles pulled over on the side of the road with their emergency lights activated as they unloaded equipment from one of the vehicles.
That’s when authorities say the semi, which had veered off on the right side of the road for an unknown reason, hit one of the TDOT trucks in the emergency lane.
The semi then continued to drive into one of the TDOT workers and a second TDOT vehicle before leaving the road and overturning.
David Younger was hit and killed at the scene. TDOT said the 65-year-old worked with the department since 2010 and was quickly promoted through the ranks to become an Operations Technician 3.
Younger is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, two daughters, and grandchildren.
Two other members of the TDOT crew, 59-year-old Carl Smotherman and 22-year-old Santana Smith, were injured in the crash. Smith was flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville where he was last listed as stable.
The truck driver, Candelario Castillo, was also injured after his semi overturned upon impact. The 37-year-old was taken to a nearby hospital with unknown injuries.
TDOT spokeswoman BJ Doughty noted this is what road crews face everyday.
“When we are on the side of the roadway, you are coming through our office at 70 miles an hour,” she said.
“The reality is, this is what they face everyday. In this case, they were not in a work zone but were on their way,” explained Doughty.
Lt. Miller with the THP said the crash is under a criminal investigation due the truck driver’s alleged negligence.
“This is clearly a violation of the Move Over Law,” he told the media. “Now because a driver didn’t obey the rules of the road… we have a worker who is taken from his family. That is not acceptable.”
THP said they used 3-D imaging and other techniques to survey the crash area and reconstruct what happened.
The investigation remains ongoing. Charges are pending.
“Our hearts are broken at the news that we lost one of our own today, and that three others were injured”, said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. “It’s a reminder of the many state employees who work in dangerous jobs every day to serve our state and their fellow Tennesseans. We are grateful for them. Crissy and I send our prayers to the families of the victim and those injured and to the entire TDOT family across the state.”
“We are deeply saddened by the loss, and our hearts and prayers are with his family”, said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “Every day, our employees work along Tennessee’s freeways, risking their lives. This is a tragic reminder of how dangerous highway jobs can be, and how motorists must use extreme caution any time they see our trucks on the side of the road.”
Flags were flown at half-staff for the remainder of the day Thursday in honor of Younger.
In the last five years, four TDOT employees have been killed in the line of duty statewide, including Thursday’s death. Since 1948, 110 TDOT workers have lost their lives while working on Tennessee roadways.
On Thursday, April 28 is also National Worker’s Memorial Day, a day to honor workers who have died on the job.
This year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week just wrapped up two weeks ago. TDOT raised awareness for work zone safety through roadway signs and memorialized their fallen crew members by placing traffic cones on I-40 near Demombreun Street in Nashville.