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CDOT honors snow plow driver killed in line of duty

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DENVER -- The Colorado Department of Transportation honored a longtime worker who was been killed in the line of duty Thursday, reminding the public to give workers a margin of safety.

“As I came around the corner I couldn't believe my eyes,” Gene Hapl said. “My CDOT plow was on its side.”

David Morris' wife and family were in tears as the longtime CDOT plow driver's co-worker described the day Morris was killed by a runaway truck in May.

“There was nothing I could do. He had been killed on impact,” Hapl said.

Morris’ name was added to a marble memorial honoring the 59 CDOT workers who have been killed in the line of duty since 1929. There were seven in 2015 and 10 in 2014.

As their names were read, many of their families, close friends and co-workers stood in silence to pay tribute.

“Their sacrifice is universal, and it is so important to honor their memory and to remember them,” CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt said.

"I think about that day everyday and what I could do to have done anything different or better. I can't change what happened," Hapl said.

Nationally, more than 600 people a year -- workers and drivers -- are killed in work zone accidents, 37,000 are injured. Colorado drivers are being warned that construction season will be heavy this year, and to obey safety signs and traffic flaggers.

“We talk about cellphones and texting, eating food and playing with the radio, but clearly distractions are probably the biggest single problem,” contractor safety director Stephen Bell said.

The number of accidents caused by distracted driving is constantly rising. CDOT warns drivers to be always be aware of construction and of crew workers on the roads.

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