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TDOT worker: "I'm in pain, but I'm still alive."

7:47 PM, Oct 11, 2012   |    comments
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"The first thing I did was hit my knees," Amanda Chesney said.

She's describing her reaction to the news her husband, 34-year-old Josh Chesney, had been struck by a vehicle while on the job.

Chesney, a TDOT employee hired just last month, was working on a paving project on Highway 11-E in Jefferson City Wednesday afternoon when it happened.

Chesney had stepped out to try to slow and stop the traffic, according to Jefferson City Police.

A truck, driven by 26-year-old Billy Ray Henderson, of Jefferson City, did stop. But the vehicle behind him, driven by 45-year-old Robin Sue Rogers, of Talbott, veered to avoid the truck, clipped it, and then struck Chesney.

"The worker actually was ejected, he was airborne and he struck a piece of construction equipment," Patrolman Keith Bunch said. "It was pretty severe. A lot of people were upset, some of the bystanders, some of the witnesses, friends and co-workers of the victim very upset and distraught, the people involved in the crash, a lot of crying, lot of tears, a lot of fear as to what kind of state that the victim was in, was he gonna be OK, was he gonna live."

Chesney was airlifted to UT Medical Center with multiple broken bones and a fractured skull.

"He's in a lot of pain, he's had to fight really hard, but the Lord has pulled us through," Amanda Chesney said of her husband Thursday afternoon.

Around 24 hours later, he was awake, talking, and sitting up in a chair.

"He's making wonderful progress," his wife said. "He's a fighter, and God is with us."

The crash brings the focus back to the risks for TDOT workers, spokesman Mark Nagi said.

"This is dangerous work that these folks do," he said. "They're so close to vehicles that are coming right against them into this work zone. I think people need to be very aware of the fact that these workers can be present at any of these times around these zones, and those speed limits are posted for a specific reason. A lot of times, people are driving the same miles per hour that they normally would, but in a work zone, people really do need to slow down."

TDOT recently hung a plaque in the administration building off Strawberry Plains Pike. It's dedicated to workers killed on the job, listing them by name.

Last year, 26 workers were killed on job sites across the state, according to the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Thirty-seven people were killed in 2010, 31 in 2009, and 39 in 2008.

"I think when people read about it in the newspaper, hear it on the news, they think about it for a day or two and then they kind of forget about it," Nagi said. "Any time you see any orange barrels or cones in an area, there's a possibility that there are workers present at that time."

After the crash Wednesday and again on Thursday, Jefferson City police stationed a patrol car near the work zone to deter drivers from speeding. 

Meanwhile, Chesney issued his own statement from his hospital bed.

"With God as my savior, he's the only reason I'm still here," he said in a statement. "I still have a job with God. God's work isn't over with me. I thank the Lord that he's brought me through. I'm in pain, but I'm still alive.

"People in traffic just need to pay attention in construction zones. If the driver of that car had just been paying attention and moving slower, I wouldn't be in this situation now. I didn't see it coming until it was too late. It would be so much safer for the workers if people would just slow down."

Police cited Rogers for following too closely. Henderson was cited for failure to show proof of insurance.

"No family should have to go through this, and no work crew should have to go through this," Amanda Chesney said. "The people at DOT are family, they act as a family, and it was traumatizing for them as well to see their crew member hurt like that, and nobody should have to go through that, nobody."

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