Local TxDOT Worker Involved in Near-Miss Incidents

Work zones across the state have claimed the lives of more than 250 TxDOT employees in the past 75 years.

Monday begins work zone awareness week; we spoke with one TxDOT employee who's faced possible death on the side of a highway, twice.

"Making it home that even was like winning the lottery, it was a one in a million chance that I was going to make it home that day. It was in an ambulance, but I made it," said TxDot Maintenance Supervisor, Israel Ortegon.

In July 2007, Ortegon encountered his first near-death experience on the job for the Texas Department of Transportation.

"In my mind it was over with, so when I stood up after wards I was in awe. I wasn't sure which world I was in."

Ortegon was cleaning up debris from an incident on Highway 83 South of Menard when a motorist came into the work zone, made an abrupt turn, and flipped over landing near him.

"Surviving an incident at 75-80 miles an hour...it's not in your favor."

One of the passengers in the pick-up truck was ejected and landed on Ortegon, knocking him unconscious; fortunately, all involved were not seriously injured.

"As many names as there are, there's still that many near-misses."

In 75 years, more than 270 TxDOT employees have lost their lives in work zones.

"As of now, the traveling public just isn't giving [the space] to us, they're still just buzzing right by our doors."

Last year, there were 17,000 crashes in Texas work zone areas.

"It's very worrisome when they're coming at you at full speed, and you're just not sure where they're headed."

Ortegon has been employed with TxDOT for 16 years, and has faced possible death twice while working alongside Concho Valley Highways.

"You never know what's going to happen, you need to know your next move."

He says it's a dangerous place to work, but as a driver being aware of your surroundings can save lives. 

"We're on your side, we're working for you," Ortegon said.

At any given time, there may be as many as 2,500 active TxDOT work zones on state roadways. This year's safety campaign is called "Be Safe, Drive Smart," an important reminder for Texas motorists.

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