LENOIR CITY (WATE) – Two parents who lost their children in two separate deadly car crashes involving guardrails are hoping their heartache catches the attention of Governor Bill Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
For months, Stephen Eimers and Ladeana Gambill have been working to get the X-Lite guard rail system, which killed their young daughters in two separate accidents, removed from Tennessee roadways. Both families spoke in front of the Tennessee Transportation Committee in Nashville and in Washington D.C., where they asked the federal highway administration to remove the system nationwide.
Eimers lost his daughter, Hannah, in a crash in McMinn County and Gambill lost her daughter, Lauren Beuttel, in a crash in Cumberland County.
They are calling on the governor and the Tennessee Department of Transportation to hire an independent contractor to perform a comprehensive inventory of the safety barrier system in Tennessee so the state can know what device is in place, where it is located, if it is in good working order and if it is properly installed.
“It’s been exactly a year ago today that I last saw my daughter alive,” said Gambill.
“Don’t waste your grief. Our pain is palpable but we are powerful and we need to hold those people in power accountable,” added Eimers.
Now, the families are putting up signs on damaged guard rails that read “Governor Haslam and TDOT, Damaged Unit, could kill someone.” Eimers said his group has identified 50 locations just in Loudon County with long-term damage to the safety barrier system. He said several guard rails were never fixed after they were damaged in fatal accidents.
“These aren’t the rantings of a father that lost somebody. This is just reasonable,” said Eimers.
TDOT said most of the units in Loudon County, which have these signs now attached, were already scheduled to be replaced. They say once a damaged guard rail is identified, crews inspect it, send a call out to a contractor and schedule a repair.
According to TDOT, it usually takes crews 5 weeks to make the repairs from the date it is identified. They say repair locations vary widely because of weather, type of guard rail, the speed of route, interstate or state route, and emergency or non-emergency.
“Since Lauren’s passing I find myself looking at all the guard rails to see if they’re damaged, what type they are,” added Gambill.
The families say putting these signs up is not something they want to do, it’s something they have to.
“I know that Lauren would want to see us make positive changes for the safety of others,” said Gambill.
Eimers says he’s compiling a list of damaged units throughout East Tennessee and he plans on putting signs on each one, “Fix what’s broken. Just fix what’s broken.”
The Lindsay X-Lite guard rail system is to blame for Hannah and Lauren’s deaths. It’s since been removed from TDOT’s Qualified Product List and currently, crews are in the process of removing the units from the transportation network.
As of June 16t, 96 X-Lite units have been replaced in Region 1, which covers 24 counties in Eat Tennessee. There are approximately 469 X-Lite units in Region 1 to be replaced, TDOT says the due date for work to be completed is June 30, 2018
Continuing coverage: Tennessee guardrail safety