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Victim's family: Additional I-440 barriers needed

Posted November 29, 2009

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— The family of a Willow Springs man, who fell to his death Friday while trying to help wreck victims on Interstate 440, wants to see additional safety measures put in place.

Family, friends mourn man killed along I-440 Family, friends mourn man killed along I-440

Carroll "Lee" Eames Jr., 33, was killed around 7 p.m. along the I-440 Outer Beltline at Glenwood Avenue and Six Forks Road when he jumped over a barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes to get out of the way of another vehicle.

Lee Eames apparently did not realize there was a gap between the two lanes that opens below to Crabtree Creek, police said. He fell 70 feet to the creek and died. A second man, who also jumped, survived the fall with cuts and bruises.

“For it to end like it did, it shouldn't have happen to anyone,” Adam Eames, Lee Eames' uncle, said. "There should be some protection. Lee should not have died."

After a similar accident in October 2005, in which Todd Fletcher, 26, died, the DOT placed a fence on the inside part of the Inner Beltline. However, fencing was not added to the inside part of the Outer Beltline, which is where Friday's victims jumped.

Carroll Eames Sr. said Sunday that his son used to work as a tow truck driver and often helped people at accident scenes. He said a barrier on the inside part of the Outer Beltline would have prevented his son's death.

“That hole should have been protected someway or somehow,” he said.

Marie Tanner, Lee Eames' sister, said her brother was always helping others in need.

“If he saw someone hungry, he would try to help feed them. If he saw someone cold, he would give them the shirt off his back,” she said.

Lee Eames leaves behind a daughter and stepdaughter.

“There won't be no more Lee, and I miss him,” Adam Eames said.

Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Abbott said Saturday that it's the state's policy to review fatal wreck sites to determine if road changes or upgrades are needed.

Abbott said the DOT will review Friday's fall involving Eames, but it has to wait for Raleigh police to conclude its investigation.

It's unclear if charges will be filed. The wrecks happened in quick succession, police said. The first left a car stopped sideways in the highway. Two cars then hit the first.


View I-440 closed due to wreck in a larger map

40 Comments

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  • Bendal1 Nov 30, 2009

    Retroconsultant,

    There's a problem with placing a wire mesh between the two bridges. First, what do you anchor it to, and how is it reinforced to take the weight of a person? Then you'll get trash collecting on it, and it's a hidden location so you need maintenance people to go out there to inspect and clean it, right in the middle of traffic, increasing the risk exposure for these workers. Finally, there was a fence in place to stop pedestrians from crossing to the other bridge; a safe, visible, easily maintained and cheap alternative.

    Should a second fence been put up on the other bridge? In hindsight the answer is yes, but the thinking was that one fence would be obvious enough to tell any pedestrians (a rare occurrence) not to try and cross over in this location.

  • 5Rs Nov 30, 2009

    ALWAYS the first rule when you arrive on an accident scene is to secure the scene. That means don't try to help the passengers until you have made sure no one else will plow into the scene.

    If a strong wire mesh screen had been secured between the two Jersey Barriers as should have been done after the first fatality, there would have been a place for the two men to be safe and avoid the oncoming cars without falling through to the creek. All it would have taken was a few hundred dollars at most and a little initiative.

  • TomLynda Nov 30, 2009

    joco cruiser:

    Of all the posts, you have made the most sense. This man would not have died had that fool of a driver not been in such a hurry to get by the accident scene. The driver, whoever it was, put theirself above anything else. If the man that jumped and died had time to stop his vehicle, get out and head towards the accident scene, then other drivers surely had time to slow down and stop. With three vehicles involved I can imagine there was not much room at all to get around, and that driver should not have been trying so hard to do what he did. He was a fool, and a very good man died. Had he not jumped, more that likely the car would have hit him. Remember, he was at accidents very often, he knew what he was doing by trying to assist. He saw the car coming at him and he reacted. Unfortuantely the place where he jumped over the barrier was a death trap.

  • batricia1 Nov 30, 2009

    OK choice here hit by car or jump over wall in creek any good choices why do u need a fence were predstrains are not allowed

  • Bendal1 Nov 30, 2009

    ghimmy51,

    The R/W would be wider if the median was wider; in urban settings often the R/W is just enough to contain the construction. On I-440 the R/W is up where the noise walls are; if the median was wider those noise walls move out, meaning more R/W is needed. The lack of vegetation and lower barriers (32" railings on bridges vs 54" elsewhere) should have also been a giveaway that something was "different" here.

    Don't understand the "people can't walk through fences" comment. Like I said, the fence on the railing may have stopped him from jumping over the railing, but then he would have been hit by the car he was trying to avoid.

    Warning signs: do we now put them on every bridge someone jumps to their death from? That helps repeat deaths but not at night, and doesn't help prevent the first one.

    BTW, I have 25+ years with DOT, designing highways just like
    I-440.

  • LocalYokel Nov 30, 2009

    forget putting up a fence, you could bubble wrap the world and people would still die. Address the cause of the car wrecks if you want to do something worthwhile. Many more people get injured and killed driving on I-440 than jumping off it.

  • 5-113 FA Retired Nov 30, 2009

    OK, let's try this one again. How posting signs to inform the general public; "Jumping over this barrier could cause SERIOUS death"

    And don't forget to post the bi-lingual and Braille equivalent (just in case there's a law suit from the family of a Hispanic or blind driver).

  • HangOn Nov 30, 2009

    Nets are cheap. Chain link is pretty cheap. How bout a life?

  • Bendal1 Nov 30, 2009

    Those of you saying "don't build open medians between bridges, it can't cost any more" than two bridges, think again.

    A bridge deck costs about $100/square foot, and that median is just extra concrete that has to be built for no good reason. Widening the median so it's more obvious runs into more right of way costs and objections from agencies concerned about wetland & stream impacts, animals, etc (all near streams, you know). I agree that a fence on both sides of the median when DOT first put it up would have been a good idea, but it wasn't done then and it's questionable if a fence would have saved this man's life.

  • Bendal1 Nov 30, 2009

    It is VERY unusual to put pedestrian fences on freeway bridges like the ones on I-440 over Crabtree Creek. Pedestrians aren't supposed to be on interstates in the first place; they aren't designed for them and the traffic is both heavy and travelling very fast.

    It is sad that two people have died in this very location now, but if you look at any other bridge on I-440 they are all built the same way, basically two bridges side by side. The railings aren't very high (32" or so) so there's a "look before you leap" kind of warning here. Plus, if there had been a pedestrian fence over the railing, since it's reported he jumped over to avoid a vehicle, chances are he'd have been hit by the vehicle and been either killed or seriously injured.

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