Driver Arrested, Freeway Worker Injured in Riverside Hit-and-Run Crash

A driver was arrested about one mile from the crash on the 91 Freeway

A road worker suffered critical injuries Monday night in a hit-and-run crash on the 91 Freeway in Riverside that led to the arrest of a driver on suspicion of DUI.

The worker was identified as an employee of SEMA Construction Inc., which is under contract with Caltrans for the 91 Freeway high occupancy vehicle lane project. The worker was setting up cones for the project, which began about one year ago.

"A co-worker heard a noise," said Terri Kasinga, a Caltrans spokeswoman. "He turned around and looked, and his co-worker was on the ground. He did not hear any braking or skidding -- the vehicle was gone."

The driver was arrested on suspicion of DUI and felony hit-and run, Kasinga said. The driver was taken into custody on Central Avenue about one mile from the scene of the crash.

The driver was identified by the California Highway Patrol as Enrique Lopez, 32, or Moreno Valley. He was driving a 1996 Honda Accord westbound on the 91 Freeway near 14th Street when he struck the 37-year-old highway worker, who was setting up traffic cones on the shoulder of the freeway.

The crash follows a series of work zone crashes in 2012, including at least two on the 10 Freeway.

In July 2012, two workers were injured in a construction zone crash on the 10 Freeway near El Monte. The driver of a minivan that crashed into the back of a truck in the work zone was killed.

Also in July, two freeway workers were killed in the crash near Artesia Boulevard when two vehicles collided in a construction zone on the 405 Freeway.

In April 2012,  a DUI suspect entered a closed section of the 10 Freeway, then struck and killed a road worker in the Baldwin Park area. The Caltrans subcontractor, identified as 21-year-old Connor Penhall, of Corona, was operating a  concrete saw on the westbound side of the freeway.

Between 2001 and 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available from Caltrans, 17 Caltrans workers have been killed on the job. Ten of those fatalities involved "errant drivers."

The figures do not include contractors' employees.

"It's time to stop texting and driving, talking on the phone," said Kasinga. "Pay attention to everything that's going on around you. And most importantly, it's time to stop driving under the influence. Anybody that's out here working on the freeways has the most dangerous job in the world."

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