Work Zone Awareness Week: Survivor shares story

WAAY 31 sat down with the survivor to talk about his long road of recovery and why it’s so important to be mindful of road crews.

Posted: Apr 9, 2019 6:29 PM

It’s Work Zone Awareness Week and we’re hearing from the survivor of a work zone accident.

Kenneth Hopper was seriously injured and his coworker, Jake Smith, was killed after a driver plowed into their work zone three years ago.

WAAY 31 sat down with Hopper to talk about his long road of recovery and why it’s so important to be mindful of road crews.

“He has a pair of twins," Kenneth Hopper said. "I just got done asking him how old they were. He said they were 18 months old. Right after this was when it happened.”

In April or 2016, Kenneth Hopper was talking with his friend, Jake Smith, while they were working for the Alabama Department of Transportation on I-65 in Morgan County, when a driver crashed into their work zone.

“Sounded like lightning striking. I remember that," Hopper said. "I held my hands up like this. I don’t know how long we were there, laying on the ground.”

Hopper was taken to the hospital with serious injuries, but his friend, Smith, passed away.

“He was a great young man," Hopper said. "A great person.”

Because of the wreck, Hopper has had to undergo several surgeries.

“Shoulder, ankles, foot, leg," Hopper said.

He just recently started walking again without assistance, but he told WAAY 31 he’ll probably never be able to walk the way he used to.

“I can’t walk a long distance without having to stop," he said. "I’ll get there sooner or later, but I used to just take off. I used to run and jog a lot, and I can’t do any of that anymore.”

Besides the physical pain he’s still feeling today, the sound of speeding cars and the smell of brake dust also gets to Hopper.

“I have nightmares," he said.

Because of what happened to him and his friend, Hopper now has some advice for other drivers.

“Slow down. Look at your surroundings. Don’t tailgate. Pay attention. I hope they’re not using their cell phones and reading books and stuff. Put it down," he said. "We want them to get to heir jobs safe, and at the end of our day of working, we want to go home safe.”

According to the Alabama Department of Transportation, work zone crashes and fatalities are up.

They also tell WAAY 31, between 2015 and 2017, there were more than 8,000 distracted driving crashes in Alabama.

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