1 worker killed, 1 injured in I-57 accident

Illinois state police are investigating whether the 22 year-old driver who killed one worker and seriously injured another on I-57 fell asleep while driving before fleeing the scene on foot on the far South Side. The driver was apprehended and is in custody.

Forty-one-year-old Jose Chavez was killed in the accident. Chavez is the first contract IDOT worker killed in a highway work zone this year.

Jose Chavez and his family lived in Berwyn. Chavez was pronounced dead at Christ Hospital on Wednesday evening.

"He knew the dangers of the job especially with construction," said Edith Chavez, the victim's niece.

The 41-year-old IDOT contract worker was killed on Wednesday and his co- worker Nicholas Tapia was injured when they were hit by a vehicle in the southbound lanes of I-57 near 119th street. The two men were struck while removing a sign warning drivers about lane closures.

"This is such a senseless and unnecessary tragedy," said IDOT spokesperson Mike Claffy.

The two victims work for Highway Safety Corporation located in Addison.

"It looked like he was thrown almost 30 feet. No skid marks on the pavement. It looks like he was doing 70 miles an hour," said Daniel Melesio of Highway Safety Corp.

Melesio showed ABC7 the vehicle the two victims were driving. He said that Chavez exited from the passenger side to remove the sign when he was struck by the vehicle. Co-worker Tapia was out of the truck on the driver's side. The trucks have special made bumpers to protect workers.

"Our guy died and the guy that hit the back of the bumper, our bumper probably saved his life," said Melesio.

Melesio says everyone that works for him is treated like family and many employees are related to each other. The company has decided to start a memorial fund for Chavez at the National Bank of Commerce (www.natlbankofcommerce.com) in Addison. Anyone interested in donating can contact Highway Safety Corp (www.highwaysafetycorp.com). Melesio has personally written a check for 10,000 dollars.

Illinois legislators have enacted stiff penalties for motorists who strike workers in construction zones. If a worker is killed, the driver can face up to a $10,000 fine. If the driver is charged with reckless homicide, it carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison.

The second victim, Nicholas Tapia, has been released from the hospital and is home resting. Tapia had eight stitches to the head and is suffering from severe headaches.

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