Cranberry Eagle: Butler County commissioner shares personal story of roadside crash. Officials say 34 people died in incidents this year

Thirty-four people across the nation have died this year while responding to roadside incidents. A Butler County commissioner’s son is just one story of how roadside workers can be injured or killed if drivers are not paying attention.

State trooper Joshua Osche, son of county Commissioner Leslie Osche, was struck by a vehicle while laying flares at a crash site on the Parkway West in Robinson Township, Allegheny County. He was not on duty at the time, but was wearing a reflective jacket, Leslie Osche recounted during a Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission press conference Tuesday, Nov. 14.

“He was in the process of placing warning light sticks on the roadway when he was struck by a vehicle and launched into the air, landing in the center of the parkway,” said Osche, who is also chairwoman of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. “A tow-truck driver, Blair Johnson, who was involved in the accident and attempting to divert traffic from the disabled vehicle, pulled my son to safety, lest he be hit again.

“His injuries were very serious. He suffered two broken legs and is learning to walk again.”

Osche’s story kicked off a conference regarding Crash Responder Safety Week, which the commission hosts each year to remind drivers to slow down and move over when they see emergency vehicles on a roadway. The conference, which took place at the Strip District Terminal in Pittsburgh and was streamed on the commission’s Facebook page, featured speeches from several traffic officials in the region.

State Trooper Rocco Gagliardi said at the conference it is the responsibility of every driver to be alert while behind the wheel of a vehicle, especially when approaching vehicles stopped on or along a road.

“It’s your duty to be paying attention to the roadway and all the obstacles around you,” Gagliardi said. “Our strongest statistic is actually tow truck drivers getting hit on the side of the road.”

Joshua Spano, manager of transportation operations and safety for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, said the easiest thing people can do to increase safety as people respond to roadside incidents is slow down.

“My ask for the traveling public is that you slow down and move over so we can do our jobs,” Spano said. “One life lost is too many.”

Osche said her son is recovering from the crash well and is still participating in state police work as part of its cellular analysis task force.

Although Joshua Osche survived the crash and is making a recovery, Leslie Osche said the crash and others like it can be avoided if drivers use safe driving techniques — and simply move over when approaching emergency vehicles.

“It was a challenge that night on the parkway to get traffic to slow down and move over,” Leslie Osche said. “If you come upon a scene where first responders are assisting someone, if you see lights, if you see flares, please pay attention. … Move over.”

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