Suspect charged in Ind. hit-and-run

April 30, 2010 4:12:48 PM PDT
A road worker is in critical condition after he was run down in a highway construction zone early Friday morning.

The driver took off but the suspect is now charged in connection with the hit and run. A tip to police helped officials track down the vehicle they believe was involved in the incident.

Roger Sadler is the second highway worker to be rundown in recent months in northwest Indiana. He was hit around 3 o'clock Friday morning on Interstate 94 near Burns Harbor.

Criminal charges were filed against Ricardo Bustos who police say is responsible for hitting a worker during the hit-and-run accident. The 21-year-old faces numerous charges including leaving the scene of a serious bodily injury accident and leaving the scene of a serious bodily accident while intoxicated. He has two counts of felony cause against him related to a prior DUI conviction.

Mike Demonja, head of Laborers Union Local 81, ordered a shutdown Thursday which meant crews scheduled to staff at least four overnight highway construction sites in northwest Indiana now won't.

"We are no longer going to work unsafe. We're going to work during the daytime when we're visible and we have protection. We're not going to go out there in the middle of the night and be protected by 50-pound barrel that somebody would just plow right through," said Demonja.

The shutdowns came with the support of some contractors and just hours after the early morning hit-and-run accident that sent construction worker Roger Sadler to the hospital in critical condition. The 49-year-old Michigan City, Indiana man was undergoing surgery for head and leg injuries at Loyola University Medical Center after he was struck by a motorist as he patched the roadway on westbound I-94 in Porter County.

"You could hear the tires and the car squealing out and then like within minutes there was a whole bunch of police and ambulance and I had no idea what was going on," said witness Damien Dement.

Investigators say the accident happened in a well-marked westbound construction zone after the eastbound driver made an illegal u-turn in a crossover where Sadler was working. Police say the car hit the married father of two, carrying him for about 35 feet before he was thrown off. The driver then fled the scene with a construction barrel caught underneath his vehicle.

After a tip from the public, a person of interest was eventually detained after a red 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier with heavy front end damage believed to be involved in the accident was tracked down in East Chicago, Indiana.

"We currently are investigating one individual," said Detective Rick Strong, Indiana State Police.

The hit and run was the second incident in recent months involving a northwest Indiana construction worker. Christopher Jenkins died in March while working on I-80 during the early morning hours.

The head of local 81 says that proves his workers need better protection.

"These are human lives that are out there on the road working supporting their families and they want to go home safe every day," said Demonja.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is investigating the incident and says prior to the accident they had planned to have a trooper stationed at the I-94 work site just for safety. A trooper will be at the site on Saturday.

Bustos will head to court next week.

The hospital says Sadler remains in critical condition.


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