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I-440 death could mean changes to state's bridges

Posted November 30, 2009
Updated December 1, 2009

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— A Willow Springs man's death along a stretch of Interstate 440 in Raleigh last week could lead to sweeping policy changes concerning the state's 17,000 bridges, the state Department of Transportation said Monday.

Carroll Lee Eames Jr., 33, jumped over a barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes of the highway near Glenwood Avenue and Six Forks Road Friday night to avoid oncoming traffic.

State reviewing bridges after fatal fall State reviewing bridges after fatal fall

Eames, who had been trying to help others following two wrecks, 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.

A second man, Luis Jesus Coyt, 18, of 8350 Raleigh Road in Smithfield, survived the fall with cuts and bruises, police said.

It is the second such fatality in that location in recent years.

"Now that we've had two in one location, I think the indication is we need to take a harder look at this," DOT highway administrator Terry Gibson said. "This is a very rare incident. We don't hear about this happening across the state."

The state now plans to look at gaps between all bridges in the state. That could mean additional barriers at new construction sites and existing bridges.

Following a similar death in October 2005, in which Todd Fletcher, 26, died, the DOT placed a fence on the inside part of the Inner Beltline, but there is no fencing on the inside part of the Outer Beltline, which is where Friday night's victims jumped.

The DOT said it thought by adding the fence to one side, it would be an indicator to not jump over the bridge.

"This is a tragic accident. Our heart goes out to the family," Gibson said. "We're going to do everything we can to fix this and make it right."

23 Comments

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  • redant Dec 1, 2009

    an interstate highway is simply a dangerous place for pedestrians

  • katiebridgette Dec 1, 2009

    The problem is that you can't see the creek and the elevation from the beltline, particularly at night, and there is nothing in the construction style of the road itself to indicate one is on a bridge. If you don't know you are on a bridge, there is no reason to expect anything other than solid ground between the barriers.

    A grate between the barriers would not be as unsightly as a fence and would allow emergency access from one side to the other, though it comes with greater engineering cost and maintenance responsibility.

    The simplest thing would be to mark the bridge itself. Either paint the existing barriers or (in new construction) use a different style of barrier to indicate the road is supported at that point by an elevated structure.

  • natebrew Nov 30, 2009

    its a tragedy, but these are extremely rare incidents. this money to build 34,000 fences (2 per bridge) could be spent somewhere else that might save hundreds or thousands of lives over years versus 1-2.

  • wrkmnjnc Nov 30, 2009

    To wa4mjf: Thank you for this clarification and information. I'm glad to know how the road naming was determined.

  • Adelinthe Nov 30, 2009

    If this is only an isolated incident, I question then why SOME areas have bridges while others do not.

    That's what causes the confusion.

    If we all knew that there were NO barriers anywhere, we might be more careful, but because there are SOME in SOME places, how are we to know until we jump???

    I agree that something needs to be done. Just what it is though, I don't know.

    God bless.

    RB

  • RonnieR Nov 30, 2009

    Interstate 440 is correct. The first number being even (4) means it leaves and returns to the parent interstate 40. I-540 has an odd number (5) which means it leaves the parent interstate 40 and does not return.

  • wrkmnjnc Nov 30, 2009

    The incorrect naming of "Interstate" 440 has always irritated me. "Interstate" highways go between states. An "Intrastate" highway stays within the state. As far as I know, 440 is definitely within the State of North Carolina and more specifically within Wake County. The correct name would have been Intrastate 440. I cannot believe the naming authorities did not know this bit of elementary grammar.

  • james27613 Nov 30, 2009

    Unless you know exactly what you are doing,
    leave the rescue to the professionals.

  • tjones Nov 30, 2009

    can't wait to see the public's outrage when they see a price tag for fencing all the gaps

  • micah Nov 30, 2009

    There is no question that this mans death was a tragedy. No question. But, I question the knee-jerk reaction of possibly retrofitting thousands of bridges in NC at a cost of millions of dollars to prevent this. This was an accident. We can't protect everyone from every little place in the world where they might get hurt. Some common sense needs to be bred back into our gene pool. This part of the highway is not for pedestrians. It was not designed for anyone on foot. Once again, I am not saying in any way that this mans death wasn't a horrible accident. I do wonder though; If this was just some guy...Some guy who wasn't a "good Samaritan" attempting to help victims of a wreck...Just some random person crossing the road where they shouldn't, would this incident spark so much interest in "fixing" the problem with the dual bridges?

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