By GREG SCELLIN, Signal Editor
Ever blow past one of those orange signs that urge motorists to use caution and slow down because there are workers on the road ahead?
A Thursday afternoon accident just inside the Fillmore/Thayer County line could have had a disastrous result if a Kansas trucker would have lost control of his vehicle a little earlier while traveling on US Highway 81, three miles north and a half-mile west of Bruning.
Four State of Nebraska Department of Roads workers were unloading equipment on May 13 just before 2 p.m. to begin mowing the area around the guard rail of a bridge between Strang and Bruning. Minutes later, a 2004 Kenworth semi-tractor trailer driven by Thomas Moldenhauer crashed into a State of Nebraska work truck, clipped the guard rail and plunged into the road ditch.
Three of the State workers scurried for cover as the crash occurred. One, Rick Saum of Geneva, suffered bumps and bruises and was transported to the Thayer County Hospital in Hebron were he was treated and released. The truck’s 54-year old driver was also transported to Hebron.
“They had just started unloading their equipment to start working around the guard rail,” said Chris Dunker, who works out of the Department of Roads location in Geneva. “If it would have started 20 feet earlier, we could have lost four people real easily.”
State worker Jeff Thomsen and summer worker Megan Baumann were also in the direct area of the potentially-tragic incident. Rescue personnel and law-enforcement officials were dispatched to the accident scene at 2:01 p.m. on Thursday, May 13. Both trucks were totaled in the accident with damage estimates of $80,000 being made on both. The guard rail and bridge at the accident scene also received significant damage.
“It was a darn lucky deal in the end,” Dunker said. “We could have lost four people.”