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Construction workers killed in crashes remembered during Work Zone Awareness Week in Maryland

Work Zone Awareness Week: Drivers urged caution on roadways
Work Zone Awareness Week: Drivers urged caution on roadways 02:17

BALTIMORE -- Maryland is the host state for National Work Zone Safety Week this year, so state leaders gathered Tuesday to remind drivers to be safer around work zones.

Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld, State Highway Administrator Will Pines, were among the state leaders who spoke at an event to commemorate the week.

As each one took the microphone, they didn't mince words. They're imploring drivers to slow down and be more careful when driving around construction work zones.

Robert Lewis, an SHA worker, talked about a close call he had in 2023 while working in one of those zones in Frederick County.

"I got out of my truck and the next thing I see is car parts flying through the air," Lewis said. "I ducked, jumped over the guardrail, and when I turned around the bed of a dump truck was six inches away from my head."

Tuesday's event happened near the same work zone on I-695 where six construction workers died after a speeding car crashed through a gap.

In response to that crash, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore called for the creation of the Work Zone Safety Work Group, which Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller chairs.

The workgroup helped create a new state law that gets more automated speed cameras in work zones, as well as increased the fines for drivers.

In a one-on-one with WJZ after the event, Miller said the workgroup will reconvene sometime in the future.

"The road to safety and progress, there is no final destination. You gotta get up each and every single day, see what are ways we can keep our road workers safer -- every traveler along our roadway as safe as possible," Miller said.

Two other highway workers have died in work zone crashes since the deadly I-695 crash. They -- along with the six workers who were on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it collapsed -- were honored at the event.

"Our work zones are filled with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, close friends and dear neighbors," Pines said. "The highway is their office, protecting them must be a priority for us all."

Work Zone Safety Unity Ride

Up to 350 cars participated in a Work Zone Safety Unity Ride that began along I-695. 

Maryland Department of Transportation officials, along with Lt. Governor Aruna Miller, hosted the procession in recognition of Work Zone Safety Awareness Week.

Officials said the procession was to travel at the posted speed and drivers should expect brief ramp closures for the event.

I-695 Crash Killed Six

The deadly crash happened on March 22, 2023 near I-70 and Security Square Boulevard in Baltimore County. The two drivers involved were criminally charged.  

Melachi Brown was driving at 121 mph when his car was clipped by a car driven by Lisa Lea, who was attempting to change lanes. Lea's car careened into the work zone and struck the workers.  

Lea is due back in court next month. Brown has been sentenced to a year and a half in prison.

Maryland State Police identified the six contract workers who were killed as Rolando Ruiz, 46, of Laurel; Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, of Frederick; Jose Armando Escobar, 52, of Frederick; Mahlon Simmons III, 31, of Union Bridge; Mahlon Simmons II, 52, of Union Bridge; and Sybil Lee Dimaggio, 46, of Glen Burnie.    

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