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Death of Polk Employee Lingers Years Later

Published on Apr 28, 2021

While more than a decade has passed since Jimmy Justice was killed by a driver in a construction work zone, his coworkers still remember it like it was yesterday.

Justice, who lived in Lake Wales, was an equipment operator with the county's Dundee maintenance facility. He was killed in 2009 when a vehicle left the road and struck him, as county maintenance crews were working along the shoulder of the road, according to reports from the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

"He was a good guy and really hard worker," said Michael Teate, a maintenance manager with Polk County's Roads and Drainage Division, who remembers Justice and the morning he was killed. "That was a really sad day for us."

Justice's death represents the ultimate danger facing Polk County's Roads and Drainage crews as they work along the more than 2,500 miles of roadway that covers an area of more than 2,000 square miles in Polk.

"I always tell my guys to stress safety when they are out there on the sites," Teate said recently. "Those sites can be dangerous with everyone seeming to be distracted these days."

It's also why the division and its workers are promoting Go Orange Day, as part of National Work Zone Awareness Week. The key message is for drivers to use extra caution in work zones.

Justice wasn't the only one injured that day. The accident also injured Thomas Davidson, who was treated at the scene for minor injuries, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said. The truck first struck Justice and then hit Davidson as they worked along the road's shoulder. Justice died at the scene.

Justice had worked for the county since Feb. 15, 1988. He had expressed an interest in becoming a foreman and was working toward that goal.

The need for work zone safety and awareness is a real concern. Between 2003 and 2017, of those killed in work zones, 14 percent were state and local government employees, according to a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Just remember, the next time you're entering a work zone, take your time and slow down for everyone's safety.