Death, destruction continues on Sask. highways despite training, tickets

Sam Fetherston survived, but many others have perished on the job in Sask. highway work zones.

More than 1,500 photo radar tickets given out in one year to speeders in highway work zones

A roadside memorial. (CBC News)

Sam Fetherston woke up in a Saskatoon hospital bed bruised, broken, concussed and extremely confused after almost a week unconscious.

The 21-year-old from British Columbia was placed into a medically induced coma after he survived a fatal crash in a construction zone near Spalding, Sask.

"I just feel like I was so lucky to be alive, I just wanted to embrace it," Fetherston said.

After waking up to find his mother at the side of his Saskatoon hospital bed, all Fetherston wanted to do was go home.

At least nine people died in Sask., work zones since 2009

Ashley Richards, 18, was killed by an apparent reckless driver her first day on the job. (CBC News)
 Others who have not been as fortunate as Fetherston will never get to go home.

In August 2012, 18-year-old Ashley Dawn Richards died during her first day on the job as a flag person on a construction site near Midale, Sask.

The pregnant teen had moved to the province to start a new life with her boyfriend. At the time, both were employed by Saskatoon construction company HJR Asphalt.

Jolene Rogers has worked for the company for 16 years, since she was a teen. She too started as a flag person with a road crew.

Now, Rogers serves as the company's safety officer.

"Ever since we had the fatality in 2012, with Ashley, we have aggressively been trying to notify the public and bring awareness that we need their co-operation," Rogers said.

"It is absolutely vital that their response is to slow down and exercise utmost caution and courtesy, for their safety. Because we are trying to make the roads safe for them to drive on while we repair the roads for them."

Rogers said HRJ's flag workers are put through extensive training, which includes planning an escape route off the road before ever getting on it, never turning their back to oncoming traffic and never crossing the centre line.

"Eye contact and clear hand signals are important," Rogers said of the tips she gives to new flag people.

Rogers explained despite rigorous safety training programs, workers lives are ultimately in the hands of the travelling public.

Speeding and passing are two problems that continuously plague workers trying to keep safe in the 60 km/h work zones on the roads, she explained.

According to SGI, there were six fatalities in Sask. work zones between 2009 and 2013. CBC News has added the three recent deaths of boys from Carrot River to SGI's tally for a total of at least nine deaths.

According to SGI, traffic collisions are reported in the Traffic Accident Information System (TAIS) when they occur on a public roadway. (SGI)

Photo radar helping

According to SGI, 1,516 drivers received tickets in 2013 after being caught by photo radar exceeding 60 km/h while passing a highway worker or designated vehicle.

Rogers said her work crews have noticed an improvement in drivers' behaviour since photo radar enforcement signs were erected.

Criteria such as damage exceeding $5,000, bodily injury or death, unregistered or unidentified vehicle. (SGI)

"It is really up to the motorist to take the responsibility to drive safely in our work zones," Rogers said.


Injured flagperson Sam Fetherston survives serious crash

7 years ago
Duration 0:56
Sam Fetherston is out of a medically induced coma and able to describe the crash. Three teens were killed in the same incident. 0:56

Rogers said it is likely that Fetherston's execution of his escape plan was what saved his life.

"I always knew that traffic control was a dangerous job," he said. "I always just had that in my head. You know? Heels to the ditch. You see a car coming, you jump in that ditch. That is pretty much the only thing I remember from that day, is jumping."

Fetherston plans to receive further surgery on his badly broken shoulder in his hometown of Courtenay, B.C. and hopes to recover from it within six to eight weeks.

His sister, Alyna Chowdhury, said she was hysterical when she found out what happened to her brother.

"Sam was thrown about 30 feet in to a field, his boss said his shoulder or something is broken. There's been head trauma. He is being flown to the hospital right now. We don't know what is going on," Chowdhury recalled reading a message from her mother.

She doubts her brother will return to work.

"I am guessing he is not going to want to anytime soon. Everyone from that crash site, not a single person from that site has been able to go back to work because it was just that horrific," she said.

Chowdhury said her family is thankful that Fetherston survived, and that he did not break his neck or back.

"We are so luck that for one thing he saw it coming, that he landed the way he did. It really is a miracle that he survived."

While Fetherston's family helps the young man heal, Ben Diprose continues to live with the loss of his girlfriend and mother of their unborn child, Ashley Dawn Richards.

Regina's Keith Dunford faces charges of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death in Richards' death.

His trial begins June 1 in Court of Queen's Bench in Weyburn.

Ben Diprose on photo radar

9 years ago
Duration 1:30
Ben Diprosé, fiance of killed flag person Ashley Dawn Richards, talks about plans for photo radar in Saskatchewan. 1:30


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