After starting the legislative journey on Jan. 8, 2018, a new law with a genesis in Franklin County was signed Tuesday afternoon by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
House Bill 499 will automatically revoke the driver’s license of anyone who hits a road construction worker or first responder in a work zone.
The bill was inspired by the death three years ago of New Haven resident and Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) employee Lyndon Ebker.
Ebker was hit and killed by an elderly driver in April 2016 while working not far from his home on the Highway 100 bridge over Boeuf Creek.
The bridge has since been named in Ebker’s honor and his daughter, Nicole Herbel, became an outspoken advocate for worker safety and driver accountability in the work zones.
The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, who worked closely with Herbel throughout the process and the many ups and downs the bill went through in the six months before it finally passed.
“It’s truly an honor to get HB 499 across the finish line and to the governor’s desk,” he said. “It was very fulfilling to make the phone call to Nicole to tell her the governor would be signing it Tuesday. It was also great to see how happy she was when it passed in May.”
Griesheimer added it means a lot to be the sponsor of a bill that shows road workers and first responders all over the state that they are cared about.
He thanked his legislative colleagues, including the House Speaker and leadership and State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, for pushing the bill through the Senate.
Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, current legislative director for Gov. Parson, also had a hand in getting the bill through the legislative process.
Two years ago, then State Rep. Alferman and Sen. Schatz were the sponsors of the bills that led to the Boeuf Creek bridge being named in Ebker’s honor. That bill was signed by then Gov. Eric Greitens in a similar ceremony.
House Bill 499 faced several challenges on its way to the governor’s desk and there were several times both Herbel and Griesheimer thought it was dead.
When the bill finally passed out of the House, just under 40 individual actions were taken. In the Senate, the bill faced a contentious conference committee that saw Senate amendments added and then eventually removed from the bill and the vote timing made it even more stressful.
The first and most poignant moments in the bill’s saga was the testimony given by Herbel to the House Transportation Committee on Jan. 31.
You could hear a pin drop in the House hearing room at the state Capitol as the daughter of the deceased highway worker spoke about her father.
“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.”
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.
“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."