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Laborers call for drivers to slow down after fatal crash near Bloomington I-74 construction zone

A flaming wreck off the side of an interstate
Laborers Local 362
Monday's multi-vehicle crash happened on eastbound Interstate 74 near mile marker 134, Illinois State Police said on Facebook. That's near the I-74/Interstate 55 split in southwest Bloomington.
Updated: November 15, 2023 at 12:09 PM CST
The McLean County coroner has identified the person killed in this crash. It was Demario L. Coleman, 38, of Tampa, Florida. Preliminary autopsy opinion indicates Coleman died from probable carbon monoxide due to inhalation of smoke and soot and thermal burns from a semi-truck and trailer crash, reportedly sustained as the driver of the truck that struck vehicles, left the roadway, overturned, and caught fire. Toxicology testing is pending.

This incident remains under investigation by the McLean County coroner’s office, Illinois State Police, and the Bloomington Fire Department.

The Laborers Local 362 union is calling for people to slow down in construction zones after a fatal crash Monday afternoon in southwest Bloomington.

The multi-vehicle crash happened on eastbound Interstate 74 near mile marker 134, Illinois State Police said on Facebook. That's near the I-74/Interstate 55 split.

One person was killed, police said. Their name and age has yet not been released.

In a Facebook post, Laborers Local 362 called the crash "totally preventable" if the semitrailer truck involved had been "going the speed limit and paying attention in the construction zone."

"He wasn’t. So he slammed into the Crash Truck sending the Teamster in the cab to the hospital. He will live, but the semi driver was not as fortunate. Thank Goodness there were Crash Trucks protecting Laborers who were in the middle of the interstate doing the final touches to open a stretch of interstate that has been shut down all summer. Without the Crash Truck, the Laborers would have been exposed to the semi barreling through a construction zone. We are Thankful this wasn’t worse!" the Laborers said on Facebook.

Local 362 Business Manager Ronnie Paul said the fatality is just the latest one. Another happened recently in Chillicothe.

"It's not safe! It's not safe, and unfortunately the state of Illinois is going away from concrete barrier walls in construction zones because it takes longer to put them out and longer to pick them up which costs more money for the project," said Paul.

Paul said the Laborers believe laws increasing penalties for violation of construction zone speed limits and for distracted driving have had no measurable effect on driver behavior.

"None whatsoever. The biggest problem isn't the laws. The biggest problem is people on their cell phones not paying attention. I'd be willing to bet that in more cases than not, that's the reason for the accident," said Paul.

Paul said he's not sure motorist behavior can be changed. Until someone figures that out, he said the concrete barriers are necessary.

"Those men and women out there doing the work are sitting ducks until you protect them with someone that can stop and withstand a vehicle," said Paul. "I think you protect the men and women and then try to curb the behavior. Right now we're just losing too many people."

He said about three years ago on I-55/74 near Normal Community West High School the union even had to shut the job down for safety because workers were right next to barrels that were supposed to screen them from traffic.

He said he suspects the decision whether to install concrete barriers depends in part on how long the job will take. Paul noted though, that barrels have been out for months at the location of Monday's fatal crash.

As the interstate work season approaches its close, Paul said the conversation about safety needs to happen at other times of the year as well.

Responding to Monday's crash was the State Police, the Bloomington Fire Department hazmat team, the Bloomington Police Department, the McLean County Sheriff’s Office, and the McLean County Coroner’s Office.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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