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Motorist keeps driving after striking highway worker

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A state Division of Highways worker was in critical condition after a vehicle struck him in a Nicholas County work zone on Wednesday.

The worker, whose name has not been released, was the second state road employee hit by a car since Saturday. The incidents prompted highways officials to urge motorists to slow down and use caution in work zones.

Both workers were injured while clearing roadside debris left by Superstorm Sandy, Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carrie Bly said.

The first incident, which occurred along Gilman Road in Randolph County on Saturday, may result in criminal charges for the driver.

Bly said that as workers were clearing brush, a vehicle swerved too close to the work area, narrowly missing one worker and striking another. The driver left the scene.

"The person hit him and just kept going," Bly said.

Workers wrote down the license plate number and turned it over to police.

The worker suffered only minor injuries, Bly said. As a precaution, he was flown to a local hospital for evaluation and released.

"Luckily, he was just scraped and bruised," Bly said. "He's just a little sore."

It wasn't clear how fast the driver was going, she said. But charges of leaving the scene of an accident still could be filed.

The second incident occurred along W.Va. 39 in Nicholas County Wednesday morning as a group of trucks passed a DOH work crew.

Bly said one truck appeared to have been trying to catch up with the rest of the group when it struck the DOH worker flagging traffic around the road crew.

"He was actually pinned at one point between the vehicle and one of our vehicles," Bly said.

The worker was flown to Charleston Area Medical Center's General Hospital in Charleston. He remained in critical condition in the ICU Wednesday evening.

State transportation officials held a conference call with Division of Highways district directors Wednesday morning to discuss the incidents.

While all state roads that were closed in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy have been reopened, crews in many rural areas still are collecting debris left on roadsides.

"In clearing the roads, we kind of cut the trees and brushed it off to the side," Bly said. "We had so many roads closed, we just did what we could to get them passable."

Now the crews are going back to those areas to collect the brush. The work could take until the end of the year.  

"We're talking hundreds of roads that we have to cut this stuff up more and haul it away," Bly said.

With two workers hit in less than a week, transportation officials are urging drivers to use extreme caution in work zones.

"We ask the public to be patient as we work to remove debris and to be aware that crews will be working along many roadways," Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said in a statement.

"It is crucial that all drivers slow down and stay alert when entering work zones," Mattox said. "Obeying the signs and staying aware of your surroundings will ensure the safety of everyone."

Bly said in both incidents workers were taking all the proper safety precautions. She said both incidents could have been avoided if drivers simply had slowed down.

"If people would have been going slow, that could have given our people enough time to get out of the way," she said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.


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