One day before his 63rd birthday, which would have been on January 29th, the life of gas tanker driver Darrell Jonas was cut short when a driver pulled out in front of him on Highway 16 near the St. James Church Rd. intersection.
Jonas, who was headed north on the highway, sacrificed his own safety and ultimately his life trying to swerve to avoid a collision with the car. The two vehicles collided, despite his efforts, and Jonas' rig overturned on its side. He was killed. The other driver, a Maiden woman, was taken to the hospital but survived. She told the investigating Highwy Patrolman that she never saw Jonas' truck.
Anyone who has driven on Highway 16 past the intersections with St. James Church Road and Optimist Club Road, and especially those who have tried to get onto Highway 16 at those intersections, can appreciate just how dangerous they are.
A GoFundMe page for the Jonas family was started by a friend. (CLICK HERE)
Last week, the Lincoln Herald published a letter to the editor from a reader in Hickory about the dangers involving failure to pay extra attention around fuel trucks and about the dangerous intersections on Highway 16.
As we understand it, the intersection at Optimist Club Road, by far the one that has the greater amount of traffic, is scheduled to be replaced by an overpass--but that won't be for at least a couple of years. Next summer, we are told, a traffic signal will be installed at that intersection.
Rich Permenter represents the Lincoln County Commissioners on the Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln Metropolitan Planning Organization (GCLMPO) Board. That group, for anyone who doesn't know, makes recommendations on road projects and their priority to the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation. In addition to
providing a report on other road issues to the Commissioners last week, Permenter highlighted the situation involving those dangerous situations:
Signalization of superstreet intersection at NC16 and Optimist Club is still on schedule, and should be in place Summer 2020.
There is no apparent change in date of the full interchange at NC16 and Optimist Club Road; it is on track--no change expected.
In light of the recent accident at St. James Church Rd. and NC16, Commissioner Sigmon and I have met separately with Andrew Bryant (County Planning Director) to come up with a proposal to advance several changes – which are being mentioned in our Corridor Study – in a more rapid manner through our legislative connection. We are in general agreement, but more needs to be done before bringing it before the full BOC. It IS time-sensitive.
At the Commissioners' meeting last Monday (Feb. 3rd), Jay Flynn, chief of the Denver Fire Department, gave Commissioners a report on the tragic accident of the week before. He was joined by Fire Marshal Rodney Emmett, Emergency Management Director Bill Summers, Deputy Chief Chad McIntosh, and C-Shift Battalion Chief Shaun Drum. Flynn told Commissioners the fatal accident was something he and others had been dreading, given that those two intersections had been alternately described as 'accidents waiting to happen.'
Flynn praised the efforts of his and the multiple other agencies who responded and Ron Rombs, who put out a news release warning motorists about the road being closed--which it was, from early Tuesday afternoon until about dawn on Wednesday morning.
As one EMS worker (who asked not to be identified in our article) told us: "Something has got to be done about those intersections. It's surprising that we haven't had more wrecks there than we have. If something isn't done, this won't be the last fatality there."
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