Darwin Newell, maintenance lead technician, added Wayne "Jake" Baardson's name to the plaque for fallen WSDOT employees.

Alice Kinney, maintenance technician, shares storeis of her "close call" experiences in work zones.

2003 WSDOT Remembers

A somber breeze made its way across the courtyard at the state Transportation Building in Olympia as people gathered at the third annual Washington State Department of Transportation Work Zone Memorial ceremony. The May 7 event honored WSDOT employees who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

“We are here today to do two things,” said Brian Ziegler, Maintenance and Operations director, “Remember and recommit.”

The American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) Memorial Wall was on display, listing the names of those who have died in work zones across the nation. Wayne “Jake” Baardson’s name is the most recent addition to the wall. Baardson, a NWR maintenance technician, was killed last August loading equipment in a work zone near Auburn.

“This is so you can put a face with the name,” said Darwin Newell, maintenance lead technician, as he held a plaque with photos of Baardson taken minutes before the accident. Newell, who spoke of the friend he missed, was tasked with adding Baardson’s nameplate on a WSDOT plaque memorializing fallen employees.

Carnations dyed orange to match safety vests were placed in a basket as colleagues, family members and friends remembered loved ones such as Sam Williams, Robert Johnson, Eino Mattila and Baardson, all WSDOT employees.

Maintenance workers Alice Kinney and John Wiersma shared their “close call” experiences in work zones – reminding the gathering how dangerous it is to work on the highway. A touching letter read by Gladys Shelton, wife of the late Mattila, stressed the importance of committing to roadway safety.

Ziegler closed the hour-long ceremony with mention of the Work Zone Safety conference following the ceremony and its purpose to help WSDOT employees remain focused on keeping more names from being added to the wall.