Local News

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

Posted November 30, 2009 4:06 p.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2009 11:44 a.m. EST

— 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.

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."