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Protesters call for stronger safety measures for MoDOT crews

by Ryan Pivoney | April 16, 2022 at 12:01 a.m.
From left, Russell Dabbs, Michael Brown, and David and Tina Jarvis protest Friday outside the Missouri Department of Transportation building on Capitol Avenue. Brown is a MoDOT employee who was struck by a truck and permanently injured while working on a roadway last November in St. Louis . The same incident killed Kaitlyn Anderson and her unborn child, who would've been the Jarvis' grandson. (Ryan Pivoney/News Tribune)

The Missouri Department of Transportation isn’t doing enough to protect its workers in the field, friends and family of employees killed at job sites asserted Friday.

More than a dozen people stood in front of the MoDOT headquarters to advocate for stronger safety measures within the department and demand answers to questions surrounding a recent fatal incident in  St. Louis.

While working on striping operations last November, three MoDOT employees were struck by a vehicle. The vehicle killed James Brooks, 58, and Kaitlyn Anderson, 25, and permanently injured Michael Brown. Anderson was six months pregnant — with a son that would have been named Jaxx — at the time of her death.

“Since I’m the only one left from that day, I feel like I have a responsibility to them now to speak up and let our voices be heard,” said Brown, who took part in Friday’s protest.

When MoDOT workers are physically in traffic lanes, they are supposed to have protective vehicles stationed behind them, Brown said. His crew last November didn’t.

“I know that day wasn’t a one-off thing,” he said. “Those crews often went out without protective vehicles so if that’s the policy they need to follow it.”

Brown received compound fractures on two bones in his left leg, three broken ribs, a broken left collarbone and a broken left wrist from the incident.

He said he has no memory of the day and only remembers waking up in the hospital the next month. Although he’s still employed by MoDOT, Brown said he hasn’t been back to work because he goes to daily physical therapy for his injuries.

He said he wants to hold MoDOT accountable to its own policies and ensure supervisors, who decide which employees go to various jobs and assign their equipment, are properly trained.

Linda Wilson Horn, a spokesperson for MoDOT, said the department wouldn’t comment on the protest.

Tabatha Moore, the late Anderson’s aunt, traveled from St. Louis to advocate on behalf of her niece.

Moore said it’s a federal and MoDOT standard to have protection vehicles deployed when crews are working on roadways, but it has been neglected.

MoDOT’s policies surrounding protective vehicles and equipment vary by project type and location, Horn said.

“They sent these guys out there with nothing — no protection at all,” Moore said. “They broke their own rules and there’s no way to hold them accountable.”

Moore said she wants answers as to how the fatal event could’ve happened, where a breakdown in training might’ve occurred and how the department is going to prevent the same issue from happening again.

“We want answers, and we want them to do a better job of protecting their people,” she said.

Moore said the protest, made up primarily of family and friends of MoDOT employees killed at worksites, was organized on Facebook. People she met for the first time Friday also joined.

Evie Newell traveled from Trenton, Illinois, to show her support and said the department simply failed.

“They had three cones that protected them and that’s not okay,” she said. “They need to make some changes, and if it means I drive a couple hours to come here and stand here all day and hold a sign so that those changes happen, that’s what we’re going to do.”


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