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Since 1921, 185 California Department of Transportation employees have been killed on the job. One of the biggest hazards is from motorists who do not exercise caution while driving where highway workers are present.
Each year on statewide Worker Memorial Day, Caltrans honors these employees by placing their names on a memorial plaque in the lobby of the Caltrans Headquarters building in Sacramento.
Caltrans Worker Fatality Statistics: A table listing totals of Caltrans workers killed per year and the causes of the incident: errant drivers or other causes.
Note: Click on an employee's name to learn more about them.
Jorge Lopez, 57, was a Caltrans Electrician 1 who selflessly served the State of California for 16 years. He leaves behind his wife Leticia and three children, Daniela, Roberto and Adriana.
Oscar, 54, was a 29-year veteran of Caltrans, most recently in District 11, Structures Construction Division, as a Transportation Civil Engineer. During his career he worked on many bridges throughout San Diego and Imperial counties, including the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge, and earlier this year, on the historic Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park. His extensive knowledge, and willingness to share that knowledge, is far reaching and his legacy will live on as he helped train many of our current bridge engineers. Oscar is survived by wife Maria (Teresa), and adult children Oskar and Christian.
Joseph “Robert” Jones, 40, was killed April 24, 2013, during a rock scaling operation on State Route 96 in Siskiyou County. The incident also claimed the life of co-worker Shawn Baker. Jones had been with Caltrans for seven years, and was a Caltrans Equipment Operator II from Montague. He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.
Shawn Baker, 50, was killed April 24, 2013, during a rock scaling operation on State Route 96 in Siskiyou County. The incident also claimed the life of co-worker Joseph “Robert” Jones. Baker had been with Caltrans for 12 years, and was a Caltrans Equipment Operator II from Weed. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons.
Richard Gonzalez, District 11, Equipment Operator II was killed by a vehicle on June 20, 2011 while working on a litter crew on State Route 15 in San Diego. The 52-year-old San Ysidro resident is survived by his wife, Ruth; 22-year-old son, Ron; and 12-year-old son, Erick.
Jaime Obeso, a 53-year-old Maintenance Leadworker in District 11, was killed by an errant driver on June 7, 2011 while working on eastbound Interstate 8 near the Sunbeam Rest Area in Imperial County. Jaime, a nearly 22-year veteran with the Department, started his career with Caltrans in September 1989. He is survived by his wife, Maria, and his two adult children, Ida, 32, and Jaime Jr., 27.
Stephen Palmer Sr., a Caltrans landscape maintenance worker, died from injuries after being struck by a trolley while on the job May 4, 2011. Stephen Sr. began working for Caltrans in 2007, where he quickly worked his way into playing an integral role and becoming a proud member of District 11's Imperial Landscape Crew. Now, at the maintenance yard where the landscape crew gets together, the chair where Stephen used to sit stands empty. It serves as reminder of just how precious life is. And it brings to mind the man who was right in the middle of it and gave his life serving the people of California.
He treasured his family and did all he possibly could for each and every one of them. He is survived by his sons Stephen Jr. (Sherry) of Chula Vista, who also works for District 11 Maintenance, Richard Asperin (Lynette) of Colorado, and Gilbert Asperin (Teri) of Oceanside, and one daughter Sherry Yafuso (Ronnie) of Chula Vista. In addition, he is survived by three sisters, three brothers and thirteen grandchildren.
Gary Smith, a 57-year-old District 3 Maintenance Leadworker, was struck and killed by a motorist while performing traffic control for a detour around an earlier fatal accident. The driver of the vehicle that struck Gary was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence.
Gary, a nearly 33-year veteran with the Department, started his career with Caltrans in May 1978. Gary spent the vast majority of his career at the Chico Maintenance Station. Gary is survived by his wife Sue and his son Gary (age 25).
Deborah Ross - Caltrans Toll Collector, was shot to death as she worked at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on August 11, 2009 where she worked for the past nine years. Her fellow workers saw her as a supporter and a mentor, putting smiles on their faces as well and giving an occasional hug when needed. She had the uncanny ability to put a smile on the faces of all who passed through her toll booth on a daily basis. As one couple who drove through daily said of Deborah "she put some sunshine in our day and that is the most wonderful thing you can do with your life." She is survived by her loving daughter Maleea, sisters, Jane, Tyrice, Antoinette, Janice and Ladietra and brother, Stephen.
Donald Mark Lichliter, a Caltrans Tree Maintenance Leadworker was killed in the line of duty on July 23, 2009 when he was struck by a truck as he worked next to his vehicle. Don was a devoted and hard-working public servant, who worked for Caltrans for over 27 years. He was a proud Air Force Veteran. He was known to his family and friends as a colorful character; hardworking and always the first to offer help when needed. He was a Christian man who took pride in providing for his family. Don was member of the American Legion Riders Chapter 263, and enjoyed golfing, motorcycling, hunting and fishing. Don is survived by his wife of 21 years, Mandy, his children Allyson, Nicole Lewis (Gary), Jollene Kelley (Rodney), John Lewis (Sara); and two grand- children. He is also survived by parents Lyle & Carole Lichliter and Don & Ellie Busbey, and siblings Jim, John, Kara & Suzanne.
Muoi Tran, 55, of North Region Construction, died as a result of an automobile accident on Thursday, October 16, 2008 while working as part of a survey crew on the Red Bluff Maintenance Station construction site in District 2. Moui is survived by his wife Thanh Thi Mong Hoang, daughter Chau Thi-Diem Tran, and sons Anh Duc Tran and Long Duc Tran.
Matthew Daniel White, 35, a Caltrans District 3 Highway Maintenance Worker, was struck and killed by a vehicle exiting at the Interstate 5 Southbound Elk Grove Blvd. off-ramp on Friday morning, December 14, 2007.
Matt was a second generation Caltrans employee and started his Caltrans career in the fall of 2000 as a Permanent Intermittent (PI) Maintenance Worker for winter snow removal on the Interstate 80 corridor. He was assigned to the Truckee East yard where he worked several winters until he was appointed to a full-time position in June of 2006. Matt also worked several assignments with District 3 Special Crews in Marysville during his PI status. As a full-time employee, Matt was assigned to the Auburn Maintenance Crew. At the time of his death, Matt was on a temporary loan assignment to the Elk Grove Maintenance Crew.
Matt will be remembered as a great person, always smiling and ready to do whatever he was asked in his job. He was an employee who was a “cut above” and loved his job along with those he worked with. He will be missed.
District 3 Director Jody Jones expressed her condolences and said, “District 3 is an extended family and we have lost a brother”.
Matt leaves behind his wife, Elizabeth and children; Edward, Ben, Sabrina and Savana. Matthew’s father, Danny White, is a recently retired Caltrans District 3 employee with over 35 years of state service. Matt is also survived by his mother, Gloria McPherson.
John Knabenbauer, a Caltrans Equipment Operator II, was killed in the line of duty on November 28, 2007. He was removing an object on Interstate 215 near the 5th Street off-ramp in San Bernardino when he was struck by a motorist exiting the off-ramp. John is the 12th employee in District 8 to lose his life in the line of duty. John was a 17-year veteran of the Department and began his career in District 7 in May of 1990 as a Maintenance Worker for the Landscape Division. He also worked in Highway Maintenance from 1992 to 1995. After 5 years tenure in District 7 serving Los Angeles County, he transferred to District 8, Riverside, on October 1, 1995. He was promoted to Caltrans Equipment Operator II in Riverside on November 1, 2000. His last assignment was with the Fontana Maintenance yard.
John was well like by his co-workers and was a dedicated employee to the Department. John’s dream since he was a child was to work with roads. He was delighted as he grew older to find out that people actually were paid to work on state highways. He loved his job and took pride in his work. President Bush commended John for his work during the 2003 Old Fire. He and his family resided in Fontana. He is survived by his wife Jeanette, daughter Alyssa, his father Robert and sister Cindy.
Nearly 1,000 Caltrans workers attended John’s funeral with over 500 Caltrans vehicles in the procession from the church to the gravesite. His commitment to his career with Caltrans was evident in the way he lived. He will be truly missed.
Djuan Bush, 24, a Caltrans Highway Maintenance Worker from the District 4 East Bay Guardrail Crew, died from internal injuries sustained in a work zone accident. He was closing the tailgate on a one-ton truck when a private vehicle hit the boom truck that was parked behind the smaller truck. The private vehicle then spun out and struck Djuan, pinning him to the one-ton truck.
Djuan is survived by his parents, brother, sister and grandmother. He has extended family within District 4.
September 25, 2007
California Department of Transportation
1120 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
California Department of Transportation
1120 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 657-5060
Fax: (916) 654-4358
Media Line: (916) 657-5060
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