Car hits workers on I-57, one dead

June 11, 2008 8:44:34 PM PDT
A hit-and-run crash on the South Side had killed one worker and ciritcally injured another construction worker along Interstate 57 Wednesday afternoon. Traffic was backed up for miles due to the crash and the investigation.

The crash happened just before 3 p.m. It occurred in the southbound lane of I-57 at 119th Street.

Police say a driver hit two IDOT contract workers employed by the Highway Safety Corp. The workers were taking down a sign along the left shoulder of I-57 when they were hit. The men may have been using their work truck parked as a traffic buffer. A driver in a silver four-door car slammed into the work vehicle. It's unclear at what point the workers were struck.

"It is possible that the vehicle may have hit the truck first, then the 2 pedestrians," said Sgt. Roy Cameron, Illinois State Police.

Police say the driver fled on foot but is now in custody.

Traffic had been shut down southbound for hours and there were major backups on the interstate.

The deceased worker, Jose Manuel Chavez of Berwyn, was 41 years old and had worked for the department for many years. He was pronounced dead at Christ Hospital. The injured wokrer was in critical condition at Stroger Hospital.

Happy, smiley and hard-working are the words relatives use to describe Chavez. He's the father of four young children - all 12 and under - and relatives say he worked hard to provide for his family.

A niece said he knew his job was dangerous, but he needed to feed his family.

"Because with the construction, you know, it is very hard, but those are the risks that he had to take," said niece Edith Chavez.

Transportation officials say Chavez is the first worker killed this year in a highway work zone. The state's transportation secretary called it a sad day, saying in a statement: "These tragic and unnecessary deaths underscore the dangers faced on a daily basis by the men and women who work so hard to maintain and build our transportation system."

So now, Chavez's family clings to recent pictures of a recent trip to Mexico to visit his mother for Mother's day.


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