MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We’re working to learn more after a deadly crash on I-55 claimed the life of a TDOT employee.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation says that a worker was killed after being hit by a car while they inspected a bridge Friday. The crash left the highway shut down for hours.

Jeania Daugherty was in the car behind the one that hit the worker. She says she can’t get the image out of her head.

“He was on the left-hand side trying to cross the street, and he saw there wasn’t no one in that lane that he was coming from and tried to merge all the way over to the next lane,” Daugherty said. “And as people were slowing, it was a car that was approaching, and as the car was approaching it was too late to stop.”  

Experts say it was a crash that could have been prevented. 

Driving instructor Max Maxwell says he sees people going way too fast every day, especially in work zones. 

“They have a tough job, TDOT workers,” Maxwell said. “I don’t think that you would like someone driving through your workspace at 75, 80, 90 mph. So they’ve got a tough job.”

According to 2020 data from TDOT, two percent of crashes statewide happen in work zones, and nine out of 20 of them happen on interstates. 

Of those crashes in work zones, statistics show they’re three times more likely to be fatal. 

“When you see emergency, or TDOT, or any construction going on on the interstate, whether you see workers or not, you need to slow down and move over. If the barrels are next to you, honestly it’s safer to move over to the next lane,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell says TDOT does a good job of warning drivers when a work zone is ahead, with flashing lights, move-over signs, and barrels or cones. 

Daugherty, however, says none of those warnings were present when Friday’s crash happened.

 “TDOT should have had someone having a TDOT sign to let everybody know to merge over to the right lane,” Daugherty said.

WREG reached out to TDOT to see if any warning signs were present at the time of the accident, but they declined to comment pending further investigation. 

The Memphis Police Department was also not available to speak on possible charges. The Tennessee Highway Patrol has not yet responded for comment.