Two road workers killed in I-69 accident

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An accident on southbound I-69 killed two road construction workers as they were wrapping up an overnight project early Friday morning.  A southbound pickup truck ran into them as they were taking down an arrow board.

Indiana State Police spokesperson Sgt. Rich Myers told Eyewitness News the crash happened at 5:42 a.m. in the left lane of southbound I-69, just north of 82nd Street.  INDOT spokesman Nathan Riggs said the workers killed this morning were employees of contractor Reith Riley Construction.  

The two construction workers, Kenneth Duerson Jr., 49, of Indianapolis and Coty Demoss, 24, of Noblesville, were pronounced dead at the scene by the Marion County Coroner's Office. 

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the two men killed in this accident.  At Reith Riley, our #1 priority is and always will be safety-Safety First," Reith Riley Construction said in a statement.

Sgt. Myers said the workers were making their way northbound on I-69, picking up barrels and cones to re-open access to Binford Boulevard and hook the arrow board to the back of a southbound truck that was parked at the northernmost end of the lane detour.

The green pick-up truck, driven by 22-year-old Jordan Stafford of Fortville, was heading southbound on I-69 when, according to Myers, it apparently struck the arrow board and the men working behind it.  Stafford had to be cut out of the truck, and went to the hospital with minor injuries.

Accident reconstruction teams worked to determine more details about the crash. Myers said, "I don't know why (Stafford) didn't move over."

"We don't don't know why. We haven't got that far into the investigation yet. To know why he didn't see the arrow board, why he didn't pay attention to the arrow board, why he didn't heed and pull over to the right hand lane," said Sgt. Myers.

Eyewitness News has learned Stafford is on probation for drug convictions in Hancock County. Court records show he pleaded guilty in 2012, received a three-year sentence and driving restrictions for six months. Stafford served his time in work release, home detention and probation. After failing a required drug test, his probation was extended for up to two years.

Investigators say Stafford passed a field Breathalyzer test. Toxicology tests will look for controlled substances.

In a terrible twist of fate in 2012, a collision with an INDOT truck killed Stafford’s younger brother. Investigators say Logan Stafford failed to stop at a stop sign.

Construction zones are danger zones for drivers and workers with no margin for inattention or carelessness.

"You gotta tell people to pay attention and be careful in these construction zones. There's two men who are not going to go home tonight to their homes and families," said Sgt. Myers.

Pictures from Chopper 13 HD showed long traffic back-ups, stretching five miles or more, on southbound I-69.  Some traffic was diverted at 116th Street and drivers used Allisonville Road and other north-south streets to head south, creating hours of congestion and delaying morning commutes.

The accident scene was cleared by 10:00 a.m.

Alcohol is not believed to be a contributing factor in the crash. However, police say this is an ongoing investigation and authorities will be reviewing toxicology reports when the results are completed. 

Gov. Mike Pence issued this statement:

"We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the two construction workers killed today in the I-69 accident. This tragedy reminds us that we must slow down and pay close attention in highway construction work zones. Hoosiers must work together to reduce the number of accidents in highway work zones and protect Indiana's workers."

The governor's office says it's the first fatality involving an INDOT worker or contractor since 2012. However, in 2012 more than 50 Hoosier workers were killed in transportation-related incidents, making it the leading cause of workplace fatalities in Indiana.

With construction season in full swing, the governor reminds drivers to slow down and be alert, especially in work zones.

Last year, 13 drivers or passengers were killed and more than 450 people were hurt in Indiana highway work zone crashes. By comparison, in 2009, there were nine deaths and in 2007, seven people were killed in Indiana work zone accidents, according to INDOT.

The CDC says from 2003 through 2012, Texas ranked as the state with the most worker deaths in work zones. Indiana ranked 8th highest.

Motorists in Indiana face fines of up to $1,000 for speeding and up to $5,000 for driving recklessly through work zones. Drivers who injure or kill a highway worker could face a $10,000 fine and up to eight years behind bars.

The majority of the injuries and deaths are caused by driver inattention, speeding, following too closely, making unsafe lane changes or failing to yield right-of-way.