Death of Caltrans worker is third since May

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A car struck and killed a state transportation maintenance employee Monday on a Mount Hope-area freeway ramp, in the third traffic accident to take the life of a Caltrans road worker in less than two months.

Following the death this morning of Richard Gonzalez, the state agency announced an indefinite statewide suspension of all its routine and regularly scheduled highway maintenance tasks so administrators could “revisit and reinforce all aspects of field safety and … ask the public for help.”

Gonzalez, 52, was with a crew cleaning up trash in a median alongside the northbound Interstate 15 connector to eastbound State Route 94 when he tried to walk across the roadway for unknown reasons about 8:40 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

A northbound motorist in a white 1990 Cadillac de Ville saw the worker crossing in his path and tried in vain to steer clear of him. The front passenger side of the sedan struck Gonzalez, killing him at the scene.

CHP officers took the 27-year-old driver into custody and brought him to a Highway Patrol station for a sobriety screening. The San Diego man was released after the test determined that he was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Gonzalez, a San Ysidro resident who had worked for Caltrans since July 2008, is survived by his wife and sons, ages 12 and 22.

He was the third maintenance employee with the state agency to lose his life on the job in the past seven weeks.

On May 4, landscape worker Stephen Palmer, 64, of Jamul was struck by a trolley in National City, and 53-year-old Caltrans staffer Jaime Obeso of Imperial was hit by a car June 7 on a job site alongside Interstate 8 in the El Centro area.

Officials with the state agency did not specify how long the project shutdown might last.

Caltrans District Director Laurie Berman said the agency's personnel were “in shock with the passing of Mr. Gonzalez.”

“This is a reminder that highway work is among the most dangerous professions and (that) we desperately need motorists to slow down and pay strict attention when driving, especially through our road-maintenance and construction work zones,” she said.

Since the 1920s, on-the-job accidents have claimed the lives of 178 Caltrans employees, according to agency officials.

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