PRINCETON, W.Va. — A bridge dedication ceremony to honor two Parkways Authority workers killed along Interstate 77 in August took place at the West Virginia Division of Highways District Ten Headquarters in Mercer County Monday.
A bridge near where the incident happened was renamed after Nathan Thompson and Richard Lambert, both of Kegley, who were killed near the Camp Creek exit, when they were struck by a tractor-trailer which had veered off the highway.
Following the ceremony, Acting Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Highways Jimmy Wriston recalled the day when he first learned of the incident, in which one worker died at the scene, another later died after he was taken to a nearby hospital, and a third was critically injured but survived.
“I was actually on my way from Charleston toward Beckley, and I have communication equipment in my state vehicle, and I was aware of it pretty quickly. I went down to the scene, and it was a tragic, tragic loss,” he said. “It’s a tragic thing to lose anybody but especially for us that work in the transportation industry to lose family, and that’s what we are.”
Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr, who knew both men, personally, said he learned even more about them in the days immediately following the incident.
“When I attended the funerals of those two fellows, I talked to their parents, I talked to their co-workers, I talked to the State Police. And, one thing that impressed me about them is how much they enjoyed helping people,” said Barr. “You see these signs on a lot of bridges, and each one of them represents a maintenance worker, a construction worker or a family member that was killed out on these roads.
Barr noted some of the safety-related changes being made on the southernmost portion of 1-77, including the hiring of an additional Public Commission Service officer as a result of the inordinate number of accidents that occur in that area.
“We had two, we hired a third one. And, they focus on reviewing and checking the equipment of the trucks, and also speed enforcement of the trucks. So, that way, we can focus more and have one officer focusing in that area of the southern part of the Turnpike.”
Additionally, Barr said the speed limit in the area where accident rates are highest will be reduced from 70 to 60 miles per hour, likely by the end of the month, after Parkways Authority Board members agreed to the change, during the most recent public session.