Driver wanted in fatal I-80/94 crash

March 16, 2010 8:57:43 PM PDT
A construction worker was struck and killed on an expressway in northwest Indiana Tuesday morning.

The driver who struck him ran away after talking with other workers at the scene.

The crash happened at approximately 1:30 a.m. in the westbound lanes of Interstate 80/94 in Lake Station, Ind.

It was dark, but police say the road was clearly marked, 'construction ahead.' Two lanes were closed as Christopher Jenkins, 45, and his crew repaired potholes on I-80. That's when police say a 1993 Mercury Cougar shot down the closed lanes, hitting Jenkins and sending his body right into the windshield and the driver.

"He got out of his vehicle, spoke to one of the construction workers and then went toward the median barrier wall. The construction worker thought he was going to throw up but he took off running," said Sgt. Ann Wojas, Indiana State Police.

"Leaving the scene of an accident is bad but when there's a death involved it's even worse. There's no excuse for it," said Gwenn Rinkenberger, victim's neighbor.

"If you know who he is, turn him in. You're not going to help him. You're going to go straight to hell," said Dan Schuman, victim's neighbor.

Jenkins' Valparaiso neighbors say he had recently switched to the night shift. They wonder if more could have been done to protect him and other road workers.

In a statement, Jenkins' employer Walsh Construction said: "The Company's greatest concern is for the safety of its employees. Walsh works closely with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indiana State Police on this project to protect its workforce and continues to cooperate with the police in their investigation of this tragedy."

"You would think people understand there are people out there at night putting themselves at risk and see the cones, know the laws, and obey just to slow down," said Schuman.

Police say the driver of the car was speeding in lanes closed for the repair work. They won't know if alcohol or drugs played a role until they catch the guy.

"If this person contacted you for assistance you would know he had been involved in a serious situation because I'm sure that he was covered in blood. Be sure to call state police or your local police and turn him in," said Wojas.

"You're going to have to atone to somebody for something and some time. Better be sooner rather than later. Let Chris' family have some peace that whoever did this see their day in court," said Schuman.

Neighbors heard about the accident Tuesday morning and feared for Jenkins safety.

"Roz Varon said there was an accident on the Borman involving a worker. And I knew that is where Chris worked. And I just, you know, you just think about what if it was him? And I just had a bad feeling about it," said Tim Rickenberger, neighbor.

"He loved going to work. And as dangerous as it was or it seemed to me, he loved going and doing that kind of stuff. He could fix anything. So a real handyman," said Crock McGonigle, neighbor.

Jenkins is survived by his wife, son and daughter.