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Families of those killed in work zones join appeal for road safety

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Transportation officials from Missouri and Illinois on Thursday urged drivers to slow down and pay attention in work zones this summer.

The plea, part of an annual campaign to emphasize work-zone safety, came a week after the death of a worker struck as he cleaned a bridge in Franklin County.

It’s a message that his family, and the family of a man killed as worked in the Metro East a few years ago, want drivers to remember.

Lyndon D. Ebker, 55, was killed when a driver swerved into him to avoid a dump truck parked on Highway 100 near Buchheit Road, west of Washington.

On Thursday, his family stood with police and agencies including the Missouri and Illinois departments of transportation to highlight the importance of driving safely in and around work zones.

Ebker’s daughter, Nicole Herbel of Leslie, said people have asked how to honor him. She said paying attention in work zones is the best way.

Nine people were killed in Missouri work zones last year, said Greg Horn, MoDOT’s St. Louis district engineer.

Construction this summer will hit every interstate in the St. Louis area. Horn urged drivers to keep an eye out for “slow-moving operations” that travel just 10 mph as they work on the busy roads.

He also encouraged drivers to merge like a zipper, especially in congestion and even though St. Louis drivers like to merge early, and to stay alert to keep workers safe.

Josie Beard echoed his appeal for safety. Her husband, Dennis Beard, 38, was fatally struck in 2012 on eastbound Interstate 64 in St. Clair County, between Fairview Heights and O’Fallon, by a driver under the influence of the sleeping pill Ambien. Three others were injured.

Driver Michael Jeter, of West Frankfort, Ill., pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated driving under the influence in 2014 and was sentenced to nine years in prison.

“As long as we are going to have roads to drive on, we are going to have road construction and road workers doing the work,” Josie Beard said, the couple’s children standing by her side. “That is never going to change.”

One of those doing such work was Mark Fresen, a MoDOT worker who was badly injured when a car struck a truck he was in at Interstates 70 and 170 in 2009.

He suffered a broken pelvis, lacerated kidneys and punctured lungs, as well as other significant internal trauma. He was in intensive care for more than 200 days and has undergone at least two dozen operations, he said.

On Thursday, he stood with a walker and listened as the Ebker and Beard families urged drivers to take caution.

“I got to go home,” said Fresen, 57, of St. Jacob. “Their loved ones didn’t get to.”

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