No Colorado State Patrol criminal charges filed for accident that killed CDOT worker Eric Hill

Colorado State Patrol cites poor communication as main contributing factor in its 94-page report

Eric Hill, longtime local and employee of the Colorado Department of Transportation, died during a work accident on March 16 near Dotsero.
Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY — Nearly four months after the job-related accident that claimed the life of Colorado Department of Transportation worker Eric Hill, of Gypsum, the Colorado State Patrol has released its 94-page accident report.

Authored by Trooper K.C. Jenkins, the report concludes that poor communication between the three men working together on March 16 was the main contributing factor in the fatal accident. The state patrol did not file criminal charges related to the accident.

The Eagle County District Attorney’s office has also received the report and is conducting a review.

“The case review process is intended to determine if there is criminal conduct and if so, does the conduct constitute an appropriate basis to file charges,” said Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown. 

Jenkins’ report includes interviews conducted with the two CDOT employees who were working with Hill on March 16 as well as a motorist who spoke with the three men immediately before the accident. The report also includes comments from emergency responders, investigative notes and accident re-creation data.

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Jenkins concluded that chemical impairment was not a contributing factor in the accident and the heavy machinery involved was not defective.

According to the report, on March 16, the three men were at work filling potholes along the North Frontage Road near milepost 134.5 at Dotsero. One of the crew members was operating a 2016 John Deere 624K loader while another was driving a two-ton pickup that was equipped with a signage board. Hill was on the ground, clad in a high visibility shirt, cleaning debris from the potholes and filling them with an asphalt mixture. At approximately 6:20 p.m. the CDOT worker in the loader moved the vehicle forward and ran over Hill.

The report notes that the loader operator thought he had run over a shovel and then put the loader in reverse. The other CDOT crew member yelled at him to back up and raise the bucket. Hill was pronounced dead on scene due to the injuries he sustained.

Contributing factors

Jenkins’ report outlines the timeline prior to the incident, noting immediately before the accident, the three crew members had a brief conversation about moving up to the next set of potholes. The trooper concluded that Hill likely thought a pothole close to where they were working was the next job while the other two men thought the next pothole was further up the road.

While citing poor communication as the main contributing factor for the incident, the trooper also cited distraction and training as contributing factors.

Shortly before the incident, the crew members were speaking with a passing motorist, and when they returned to work, the loader operator said in the report that he assumed Hill had accompanied the other crew member back to the two-ton truck. The CSP report notes that the loader operator failed to visually account for all members of the crew prior to moving the loader forward.

The report also noted the loader operator had not attended CDOT’s required training related to potholes or forklift/loader training. The report states there is documentation on the operator’s “job map” showing he had received loader and pothole training. But Jenkins noted job map training is subjective to the person conducting it rather than covering set guidelines provided by CDOT.

CDOT supervisors interviewed following the accident stated that loader operators are expected to check their surroundings before operating equipment. Additionally, the trooper cited a supervisor who reported that when workers are trained to use a loader, there is always a spotter present. “According to CDOT policy and procedures, a spotter is to be used when available,” Jenkins’s report states. “I was also advised that it is common to not have a spotter for this type of task.”

The report concluded that because the loader and the loader’s bucket were moved prior to the investigation, Jenkins was unable to accurately place the location of the loader prior to the accident. The trooper noted that based on multiple re-creations, it is possible that Hill was concealed by the loader bucket at the time of the accident.

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