By Kevin Palic
Sept. 11, 2007, started off as any normal day. My plan was to attend a meeting at Headquarters in the morning and go visit a project on U.S. 59 after the meeting. During the meeting I was notified that KDOT employee Ty Korte had been hit. I immediately called the other KDOT employee at the site and asked what was going on. He told me to get out here, it was bad, and that he didn’t know if Ty was going to make it.
The next 30 minutes were a blur, I just remember trying to get to the jobsite as quickly as I could. Maintenance crews had the road closed due to the accident, I told them who I was and proceeded to the site. I saw a group of contractor’s employees beside the road. They were all visibly shaken.
There were also several Highway Patrol vehicles at the site. I could also see a medical helicopter out in the field beside the road. I thought to myself, this is not good, but hopefully any medical attention needed will be available.
As I came around the front of the equipment, the magnitude of the accident hit me like a brick. Instead of seeing emergency personnel, there were two white blankets with bodies underneath of them. One of the bodies was on the shoulder and the other was in the middle of the road. There is not a more horrible feeling than wondering which one of these blankets is over Ty, and then being able to recognize him by his boot sticking out. It was difficult to deal with.
The other blanket covered a Dustrol employee Roland Griffin. Once your mind gets cleared of what it is seeing, I went to find the other employee that was at the site to comfort him and find out what happened. He was on the other side of the accident, and unfortunately, we had to walk by the bodies to get back to the vehicle. This was very difficult to do, to walk a coworker by his friend that was just killed in an accident.
I stopped by the hotel to clean out his room. I gathered all of his belongings and drove back to the office. I can't tell much about the trip back I was in a daze trying to believe what happened. When I arrived back at the office, everyone was in shock. We gathered together and said a prayer and then went to visit his parents. This is another situation that I hope no one has to go through.
This carelessness does not just affect the employees at the construction site. It deeply affects families, friends and the community. In our office, we still remember Ty often. We speak of him in ways that make us all laugh, such as how he would get excited during card games, or the dances he would do. He was a good employee and friend, and has been deeply missed.
Please drive through the zone as if it was one of your loved ones or family in the zone. You don’t want to have to go out there and choose which blanket your friend is under.
If that doesn’t work, just imagine that you were the driver that caused this and had to explain why it happened.
Kevin Palic is the KDOT Area Construction Manager in Seneca.