Worker killed on Hwy. 140, officials warn drivers to pay attention

 KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. —  The construction and maintenance community are mourning the loss of one of their own after a worker was killed on the job along Highway 140.

Oregon State Police said around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday 45-year-old Daniel Wessel was flagging in a construction zone when he was hit by a woman driving through.

His death marks the first work zone fatality this year, but the Oregon Department of Transportation and other work crews say that’s one too many.

“When something like this happens, it his us all personal,” said John Vial of Jackson County Roads. “All of us realized that could’ve been us.”

Police say Wessel was pronounced dead at the scene, causing roads departments all across southern Oregon to take a step back.

“This does impact us,” Vial said, “and it causes us to really reevaluate and think about what we’re doing.”

Vial said the biggest thing they want drivers to do when entering a work zone is pay attention, noting distracted driving can play a big part.

“Inattentive driving is the biggest problem that we see in the work zone and it’s where the biggest hazards occur,” Vial said.

Crews said you can avoid tragedy by staying alert and slowing down.

“People frequently fly through our work zones,” Vial said, “and it’s very hazardous to drivers and the employees, so keep your speeds down.”

It’s all in an effort to keep everyone safe heading into a busy construction season.

“We put a great deal of thought into how to make our work zones safe,” Vial said. “If the drivers will pay attention and keep their speeds down between the two of us, we can get through this summer to where things like what happened yesterday on Highway 140 shouldn’t happen again.”

In the past five years there have been 10 crashes involving construction employees in work zones and four fatalities.

OSP said no charges or citations have been filed in this case, but the investigation is still ongoing.

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