A crash involving an overturned tractor trailer and a Tennessee Department of Transportation truck killed a TDOT worker and closed a portion of Interstate 40 Thursday.
The wreck happened in the westbound lanes of the interstate near mile marker 155 in Hickman County. It was reported around 9:45 a.m.
Officials with the Tennessee Highway Patrol confirmed the wreck killed a TDOT worker. Two other TDOT workers and the semi driver that caused the crash are in the hospital. Lt. Bill Miller said the crash is being worked as a criminal investigation due to negligence of the semi driver.
“What we have to be mindful is that this is a crime scene and we have to make sure everything is investigated as thoroughly and properly as possible,” Miller said.
TDOT officials said the worker who was killed had been with the department since 2010. His name had not been released, but those with TDOT confirmed it was the first TDOT fatality since 2013. They added he had been hired as a maintenance worker and quickly worked his way through the ranks to become an Operations Technician 3.
According to reports, a TDOT crew was headed to a maintenance job when one of their two trucks got a flat tire on the interstate.
Everyone was out of the truck on the side of the interstate as they worked to change the tire. Authorities said that's when the tractor trailer left the road for an unknown reason and entered the emergency lane.
The semi reportedly struck one of the TDOT vehicles, knocking it into the TDOT worker. The tractor trailer then hit the second TDOT truck and flipped.
Another TDOT employee was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A third worker and the driver of the semi were taken by ambulance to local hospitals. Their conditions were unknown.
“Our hearts are broken at the news that we lost one of our own today and that three others were injured”, said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. “It’s a reminder of the many state employees who work in dangerous jobs every day to serve our state and their fellow Tennesseans. We are grateful for them. Crissy and I send our prayers to the families of the victim and those injured and to the entire TDOT family across the state.”
“We are deeply saddened by the loss, and our hearts and prayers are with his family”, said TDOT Commissioner John Schroer. “Every day, our employees work along Tennessee’s freeways, risking their lives. This is a tragic reminder of how dangerous highway jobs can be, and how motorists must use extreme caution any time they see our trucks on the side of the road.”
Counselors planned to be on hand for any fellow employees as needed.
According to TDOT, 110 workers have lost their lives on Tennessee roadways since 1948.
Thursday also marked Worker's Memorial Day. The Central Labor Council held a ceremony to commemorate the 140 people who died while on the job over the past year. The TDOT worker makes 141.
"These people don’t die alone," said Central Labor Council President Vonda McDaniel, "they leave families they leave coworkers they leave friends."
Authorities said the roadway was closed to westbound drivers for nearly eight hours. Eastbound traffic was affected with rubbernecking delays.
Crews said the roadway reopened around 5:45 p.m.