Maryland State Highway Administration cited in crash that killed 6 workers

The State Highway Administration has no plan to appeal or contest the citation

Published 10/18/2023 10:15 a.m. EDT, Updated 10/18/2023 6:30 p.m. EDT

Overhead footage of crash on I-695 that killed six highway workers.

A new report by Maryland Occupational Safety and Health cites the State Highway Administration for a serious violation that contributed to the deaths of six highway workers in a high-speed crash on I-695 earlier this year.

The citation is centered around the lack of legible traffic control signs near the work zone to warn drivers about potential hazards on the road.

Last month Maryland Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Maryland Department of Labor, released a report on the crash citing the SHA with a “serious” violation for not posting legible traffic control signs at points of hazard.

The report says the signs were not posted in advance of the openings of the work zone’s concrete barrier near Woodlawn to warn drivers that construction vehicles would be moving in and out.

This would mean that highway workers would be exposed to “struck-by hazards.”

The State Highway Administration says even if the signs were in place, it would have not prevented the crash that took those six lives.

“Safety is our top priority,” the agency said in a statement. “The citation issued was related to optional signs alerting drivers to potential construction vehicles entering the roadway. The crash did not involve a construction vehicle, and the signs would not have prevented the crash from occurring. The state highway administration has no plan to appeal or contest the citation.”

There are no penalties connected to the citation.

The two drivers involved have been charged in the crash, which happened in late March. The six highway workers were killed when troopers said two cars crashed at a high rate of speed. One of the cars careened into the work zone.

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

Prosecutors said Lea was traveling at 108 mph at the time of the crash.

Facing more than 50 charges, the two will be tried in court together in December. If convicted of all charges, both suspects could face over 70 years in prison.

Maryland State Police identified the six contractual 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.

The crash led Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller to create a work zone safety work group, which she says is coming up with recommendations like installing speed cameras at work sites, increasing fines for drivers who speed through work zones and modernizing technology to make workers more visible to drivers.

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