Pennsylvania Highway Worker Killed in Tragic Accident

October 21, 2010

Jack Griffin, a 51-year-old transportation equipment operator for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), was struck by a car and killed this month while flagging traffic with a stop sign in a highway construction zone.

Griffin was a member of AFSCME Local 2116 of District Council 85 (part of Council 13). He was the third PennDOT worker to die on the job in 2010. The others, also members of AFSCME, were Lebanon resident Thomas Allen, 57, and Richard Bentel, 43, of Ellwood City.

Since 1970, 82 PennDOT workers have been killed in the line of duty.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Allen D. Biehler, P.E., ordered state flags flown at half-staff for five days to honor Griffin.

Authorities said Griffin, of Bradford, was struck by a vehicle at a Route 646 worksite in Foster Township and thrown into a ditch, where he died. The vehicle continued into the work zone, hitting a pavement-cutting machine operated by PennDOT worker James B. Burrows, 51, of Eldred. Burrows, also a member of DC 85, was thrown to the pavement. He was treated at a local hospital and released.

“People need to be more aware and careful when they come to a work zone,” says Local 2116 Pres. James Peffer, a PennDOT diesel mechanic. “Jack had all the right equipment on – a reflective vest. I just don’t know why” the car struck him.

The vehicle’s driver was not immediately charged pending an investigation.

“There’s nothing worse than the motoring public not respecting us” when they approach a highway work zone, says Mark Blair, a PennDOT transportation equipment operator specialist and treasurer of Local 2116. He suggested a driver awareness program could be created to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

“He was well liked, a hard worker,” adds Blair. “He belonged to a motorcycle club, the American Legion Riders, and donated time to a soap box derby in the county. He was also an avid hunter and fisherman.”

Griffin, who was not married, took particular joy in his Harley Davidson motorcycle, say friends who posted their condolences on a funeral home website.

Local 2116 plans to install a plaque in Griffin’s memory outside of the PennDOT maintenance office, 300 Bingham Rd., Cyclone.

Read more about PennDOT deaths here.

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