California Department of Transportation

Highway Worker Safety

Since 1921, 182 California Department of Transportation employees have been killed on the job. One of the biggest hazards is from motorists who do not exercise caution while driving where highway workers are present.

Each year on statewide Worker Memorial Day in April, Caltrans honors these employees by placing their names on a memorial plaque in the lobby of the Caltrans Headquarters building in Sacramento.

The following Caltrans employees have been killed on the job since January of 1993:

  • Joseph "Robert" Jones - District 2, Equipment Operator II was fatally injured during a rock-scaling operation in Siskiyou County
  • Shawn Baker - District 2, Equipment Operator II was fatally injured during a rock-scaling operation in Siskiyou County
  • Richard Gonzalez - District 11, Equipment Operator 11 was killed by a vehicle while working on a litter crew on State Route 15 in San Diego.
  • Jaime Obeso - District 11 Maintenance Leadworker was killed by a hit and run driver who entered a lane closure on Interstate 8 near the Sunbeam Rest Area in Imperial County.
  • Stephen Palmer Sr. - Stephen Palmer Sr., a Landscape Maintenance Worker, died from injuries after being struck by a trolley while on the job in National City near San Diego.
  • Gary Smith - District 3 Maintenance Leadworker, was killed in the line of duty on November 14, 2010 by a suspected drunk driver while performing traffic control for a prior fatal collision.
  • Deborah Ross - Caltrans Toll Collector, was shot to death as she worked at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on August 11, 2009.
  • Donald Mark Lichliter Caltrans Tree Maintenance Leadworker (District 10) was struck and killed on July 23, 2009 by a motorist as he was working next to his vehicle.
  • Muoi Tran - Transportation Engineer was killed October 16, 2008 (District 3) in an automobile accident while driving to a worksite.
  • Matthew D. White - Highway Maintenance Worker (District 3) Struck by a vehicle exiting the Elk Grove off-ramp on southbound I-5 in Sacramento County. December 14, 2007
  • John Knabenbauer - Maintenance Equipment Operator (District 8) Hit by a vehicle exiting the 5th Street off-ramp on northbound I-215 in San Bernardino County. November 28, 2007
  • Djuan Bush - Caltrans Highway Maintenance worker was working on a guardrail replacement project on I-580 in the Bay Area. He died from injuries sustained when an errant driver crashed into a boom truck, then spun out and hit Djuan on September 25, 2007.
  • Sean Merriman - Caltrans Equipment Operator (District 4 San Jose) was part of a maintenance crew filling potholes on Highway 101. He was killed when an errant tow truck driver traveling at a high rate speed crossed into the work zone.
  • Jackie Ray Aldridge - Caltrans Equipment Operator (District 9 Tehachapi) was killed February 27, 2006 when errant driver crossed median and hit his Caltrans truck head-on.
  • Daniel D Broeske, Transportation Engineering Technician (District 1) was killed instantly when a dump truck backed over him.
  • Chester Hawkins, Caltrans Equipment Operator II from the Groveland Yard in District 10 was fatally injured on July 30, 2004 when the ten-wheel dump truck he was driving left Highway 49 and traveled 650 feet down a ravine.
  • William Calloway, Structural Steel Painter (District 4) died of injuries sustained when he fell more than a hundred feet at pier 12 of the Benicia Bridge on April 7, 2004.
  • Mike Feliciano, Caltrans Maintenance Leadworker (District 5) was killed on February 25, 2004, by an errant motorist. Mike was returning home after completing emergency work on Highway 101 near Chualar when the accident occurred.
  • Linda Sutton, a veteran Caltrans Equipment Operator, was killed while working on foot behind a truck. She was hit, knocked down and run over by the backing Caltrans 10 -wheel dump truck on March 19, 2001 during a paving operation.
  • Charles Deming, 46, Caltrans Maintenance Leadworker (District 7), was killed when the truck he was operating ran off Highway 39 near Angeles National Forest and plunged into a ravine on February 23, 2000.
  • David J. Jones, Caltrans Landscape Maintenance Worker (District 6) died June 1, 1999, during mowing operations on SR 58 east of Bakersfield in Kern County, when the rear flail attachment of his tractor came down across his chest as he inspected it.
  • Caltrans maintenance worker Paul J. Chavez, was killed January 19,1999, after finishing an operation on Interstate 210, while returning to the maintenance station he lost control of his vehicle and overturned.
  • Caltrans Civil Transportation Engineer Hemul R. Patel, was killed September 1, 1998, in a head-on collision on Highway 70 south of Oroville while returning from a job site inspection.
  • Caltrans electrician Manuel Leon, 59, was killed by a passing vehicle July 9, 1998, as he stepped from his truck to repair a traffic signal west of Hollister in San Benito County.
  • Caltrans maintenance workers Hal Bierlein, 51, Wayne Bowers, 43, Michael Kelley, 49 and Paul White, 40, were shot to death Dec. 18, 1997, by a former Caltrans employee who was fired for stealing. Two other employees, Reginald Tennyson, 54, and Jesus D. Barrios, 36, were wounded in the attack.
  • Michael Magana, Caltrans Equipment Operator, and Thomas Ortega, Highway Maintenance Leadworker, were killed after being struck by a motorist while repairing bridge railing near Colton (District 8) on Aug. 27, 1995.
  • Donna DeNeal, maintenance worker, died on Feb.7, 1995, after being struck by a motorist while replacing a sign in the center median of Highway 75 at Rainbow Drive in Imperial Beach (District 11).
  • Charles Warner, Maintenance Leadworker, was killed by an errant truck driver while supervising a special programs work crew on Interstate 880 in San Leandro (District 4) on March 27, 1994.
  • Brad Joss, Civil Transportation Engineer, was killed in a vehicle accident in Sonoma County (District 4) on Jan. 4, 1994.
  • Robert Essenpries, Civil Transportation Engineer, was killed in a construction accident at a project on Interstate 5 north of Redding (District 2) on Aug. 19, 1993.
  • Roger VanDenBroeke, CT Equipment Operator, was killed by an errant motorist while removing a disabled vehicle from the Carquinez Bridge toll plaza in Vallejo (District 4) on Aug. 12, 1993.
  • Juan Thome, Maintenance Landscape Leadworker, was killed by an errant truck driver while checking on a landscape crew working along Highway 60 in Diamond Bar (District 7) on April 28, 1993.
Caltrans Worker Fatalities:
(Does not include contractors' employees)
Errant Drivers Other Incidents Total Fatalities
1972-81 22 16 38
1982*-91 8 8 16
1992 2 0 2
1993 2 1 3
1994 1 1 2
1995 3 0 3
1996 0 0 0
1997 0 4 4
1998 1 1 2
1999 0 2 2
2000** 0 1 1
2001 0 1 1
2004 1 2 3
2005 0 1 1
2006 2 0 2
2007 3 0 3
2008 1 0 1
2009 1 1 2
2010 1 0 1
2011 1 2 3
2013 0 2 2
Total: 49 43 92
1921-71 91
Total: 183

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