You could hear a pin drop in the House hearing room at the state Capitol Thursday morning as the daughter of a deceased highway worker spoke about her father.
Nicole Herbel gave a tearful testimony to the House Transportation Committee on a bill (HB499) that would immediately revoke the driver’s license of anyone who hits a highway, utility or emergency services worker.
She is the daughter of former Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) employee Lyndon Ebker, who was killed by an elderly driver in a work zone outside New Haven in the spring of 2016.
“I pray Dad never saw what was coming,” Herbel said. “Or, realized he was dying alone and didn’t get to say goodbye to his family.”
In this case, the driver of the vehicle who hit and killed Ebker was allowed to keep his driver’s license and continue driving for 2 1/2 years until last November when his license was finally revoked.
As part of her emotional and sometimes graphic testimony, Herbel read an eyewitness statement from the scene of her father’s death on the Boeuf Creek bridge.
“There’s a helmet on the ground,” Herbel read from her statement. “Why isn’t there a person in it? What was that object I saw flying by? His legs are broken so badly, they don’t even look like they have bones in them.”
Also included in Herbel’s testimony was the horrific firsthand account of a first responder who was on the scene that spring morning.
“I was 99 percent certain he was dead,” she read. “His entire body was broken and had been thrown 20 to 30 feet and landed against the back of a work truck and was slumped over the trailer hitch. There was a pool of blood under his body.”
Herbel went on to relay other horrific details from the accident scene, including the fact Ebker was thrown 41 feet from the point of impact and there were skid marks on the bridge from her father’s boots.
She added on top of it, taking six judges to finally revoke the driver’s license, many of these facts were never admitted by former Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks, who said he “wasn’t going to argue over a damn license.”
According to her statement, a new Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper worked the accident and didn’t take statements from Ebker’s co-workers who witnessed the collision, or that the driver was diagnosed with muscular degeneration the day after the incident.
“I’ve always been proud to say I was from Missouri,” Herbel said. “Three generations of my family have worked for MoDOT. After my dad was killed, my state let me down.”
In addition to Herbel’s testimony, about 15 other people representing utility workers, MoDOT and first responders testified in favor of the bill. There was no dissenting testimony.
Although there was no testimony opposing the bill, representatives on the committee questioned if the automatic revocation was in a way convicting drivers before their right to due process.
Another representative stated that instead of wasting time on this bill, since it won’t bring a life back, more efforts should be put into preventing the accidents in the first place.
If the legislation is successful, a driver’s license will be automatically revoked and the driver can then gain their license back either through a petition to the circuit court or by retaking both the written and hands-on state driving tests.
Another question raised was about the amount of time that must pass between license revocation and when a driver can reapply.
The bill is being sponsored by State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, and is one of MoDOT’s highest priorities in the 2019 legislative session.
Since the public hearing has been held, a vote will be taken by the committee to pass the bill back to the full House and then potentially on to the Senate for full passage.