It’s been 40 years since Kermit Starkey Sr. died and not a day goes that his family doesn’t miss him.
A sign was dedicated in his honor May 11 at the Ohio Turnpike’s maintenance building in Amherst Township. It can be seen at the route’s 141.3 westbound mile marker.
Family members gathered to remember the 46-year-old who had worked for 12 years as a Turnpike mechanic.
Starkey was struck and killed by a train on Feb. 14, 1978, while on duty on Middle Ridge Road in Amherst.
He is one of 12 Ohio Turnpike workers killed in nine incidents since 1967.
“Everyone thinks they need to get everywhere as fast as possible without thinking of others’ safety,” said Kermit Starkey Jr. “Everyone is in a hurry. My nephew has been working up in I-90 in Cleveland. Two weeks ago, he was holding a slow down sign for his crew. A gentlemen drove by texting and ended up wrecking his car.”
A partnership between the turnpike commission and Ohio State Highway Patrol was formed in 2017 to carry out aerial speed enforcement in and around work zones and is continuing that initiative this year.
Crashes in work zones decreased 21.5 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year, from 349 to 274. Crashes with injuries dropped by 44 percent, from 84 to 51.
Last year saw no fatal crashes in Ohio Turnpike work zones, according to executive director Randy Cole.
Roughly 60,000 red thumb bands reading “W82TXT” have been distributed to area high schools lining the turnpike, he said.
“What’s shocking to me are the phone calls and thank you notes we’re getting back,” Cole said. “Principals and guidance counselors and school superintendents. You would think these thumb bands are a life preserver sent to a drowning child. I think in some of their minds that is what we’re doing.”
“It is necessary that we call for renewed attention to the state of Ohio’s move over and slow down law,” he said. “Thank you to the Starkey family for being with us here today. We offer our condolences and thank you for recognizing we want to honor Kermit. We want to get the work out for a greater purpose and you are part of that greater purpose.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.