WVDOT holds Worker Memorial candlelight vigil to remember those lost

CHARLESTON, WV – The West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) held a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, in conjunction with National Go Orange for Work Zone Safety Awareness Day, to remember the 58 West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) workers who have lost their lives in the course of their daily work. “When I got that call in the hotel, emotions overwhelmed me,” said Jake Bumgarner, P.E., Director of the WVDOH Operations Division, of the moment he learned that his co-worker and friend, Randy Bland, had died on the job. 
In attendance alongside highway workers were families who had lost a loved one while working on West Virginia roads. WVDOH considers them family, too.  “We’re committed to safe work zones,” said Secretary of Transportation, Jimmy Wriston, P.E., in a press conference with Governor Justice earlier in the week. “Today, we’re not going to worry about compliance, and meeting minimum standards. Today we’re going to be committed. We’re committed to zero fatalities in our work zones.”
The Worker Memorial, unveiled in 2017 at the Interstate 77 Welcome Center in Williamstown, bears the names of men and women who lost their lives on the job.  WVDOH reached back to its beginnings to compile the names, with the hopes that doing so would help prevent other lives from being lost.  This year, smaller replicas of the design by West Virginia sculptor, Jamie Lester, were placed in each of the Welcome Centers around the state. 
The memorials bear the names of these 58 workers: Susan CusterEllis OgdenRobert LillyOscar MaynardMillard McatteLuke SimpicioTimothy CoxJohn MurphyArthur CoulterRoy VanscoyRobert KanodeVictor AbbingtonChester DeLongRobert PrittDennis Neely Jr.Robert Fleece Jr. Paul B. KyleFrederick SponaugleJohn PolandGlen ShrewsburyJohn TownsendJames Galloway Jr.Francis DoranJoseph ChetorkEdwin LogstonDavid EarliwineEli Blankenship Jr.Wetzel L. BiasTerry L. WebbWilliam D. CookSteven L. OldakerJack SharpsRoger E. SkinnerStephen M. CigarRickie H. SandersJohn A. MoatRandall W. BlandGlenn F. LoughCharles E. Himelrick Jr.Ralph W. SwisherFernard J. RetoRichard JohnsonJack A. WilliamsForrest A. RaynesOkie RiserTimothy E. BoothOkey DeanEdward ArnoldJames H. WattsHarold SherrJohnny L. WilsonStephen A. HeroldNelson E. IngramBenjamin HarrisEugene SullivanJohn D. GreenwideMorris Hansford
In 2022, there were 800 crashes in West Virginia work zones, killing eight people and injuring 276. Fatalities in work zones include both workers and motorists. Crashes can be avoided when drivers obey posted speed limits and let distractions wait. On National Go Orange for Work Zone Safety Awareness Day, wearing orange signals a dedication to driving responsibly so that everyone gets home safe at the end of the day.  On Monday April 17, 2023, Wriston joined Gov. Jim Justice for a work zone safety press conference to remind drivers to slow down and pay attention in work zones as the WVDOT embarks on a massive 2023 highway construction season.