In the winter of 2005 a 52-year-old male emergency roadside technician (ERT), (providing traffic control support for police), died when he fell approximately 75 – 80 feet from a bridge after being struck by a single-unit truck. A policeman had responded to a call from a semi-truck driver on the interstate who had blown a tire while driving on an interstate. After the tire blew, the driver immediately pulled the semi onto the right shoulder and called police for assistance. This section of the shoulder was on a bridge on the blind side of a hill, and was too narrow to accommodate the width of the semi. The back left corner of the semi extended out into the right-hand travel lane of the interstate. A police officer arrived and with emergency lights flashing, parked his cruiser on the shoulder at the top of the hill behind the semi. The officer requested assistance with traffic control. An employee of a company contracted by the local police to provide roadside assistance arrived in a panel truck. Upon arrival, he was instructed by the police officer to park his vehicle with yellow emergency lights flashing at the bottom of the hill, approximately 100 yards behind the police cruiser. After parking his vehicle on the shoulder as instructed, the contractor then exited the vehicle from the driver’s side and proceeded to walk up the hill toward the police cruiser. A single-unit truck approached from behind in the right hand travel lane and tried to switch lanes when he observed the yellow emergency lights on the panel truck. When the driver of the single-unit truck switched to the middle lane, the driver struck the right-rear end of a semi trailer in the middle lane, lost control, swerved back into the right lane, sideswiped the ERT’s panel truck, then struck the ERT. Upon being struck, the ERT was thrown over the side of the bridge 75 – 80 feet to the ground below. The police officer called emergency medical services to the scene. They arrived and detected no vital signs in the ERT. The coroner was called and upon arrival, declared the ERT dead at the scene of “multiple blunt force injuries secondary to motor vehicle versus pedestrian”.

To prevent future occurrences of similar incidents, the following recommendations have been made:

Recommendation No. 1: A traffic control plan should be implemented and enforced immediately when the travel lane is obstructed.

Recommendation No. 2: Ensure that the placement of various types of warning devices (portable signs, orange traffic cones, flares and/or portable changeable message signs) informs drivers of what to expect when approaching an incident scene.

Recommendation No. 3: In addition to flashing lights, a permanent message board should be placed on the back of emergency response vehicles that routinely need to control traffic.

Recommendation No. 4: Ensure that personnel receive training in the proper procedures and the hazards associated with emergency operations for highway incidents.

Recommendation No. 5: When providing emergency roadside assistance, company policy for exiting emergency vehicles away from the traffic lanes should be enforced.

Recommendation No. 6: Braking mechanism performance checks should be routinely performed on all motor vehicles before entering roadways.

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