Working on the state’s highways can be a dangerous occupation, a fact punctuated recently when the Idaho Transportation Department officially unveiled a memorial to several dozen of its employees – including three from Idaho County -- who died while on the job.
The memorial was dedicated at ITD headquarters in Boise on Feb. 5. The plaque contains 30 wooden discs, each representing an individual lost on the job, stretching back to the 1960s when the interstate system was built.
Three of those discs represent county residents.
Toby Joe Stevens, 43, and James W. Onthank, 42, both of Grangeville, died March 15, 2005, in a work-related vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 95 near Slate Creek when their ITD dump truck was struck by an oncoming cement truck.
On May 9, 1963, Carl Fleming, 59, drowned when his vehicle was knocked 200 feet into the Lochsa River after meeting another car on a sharp turn six miles west of the Powell Ranger Station. A memorial plaque to Fleming can be found on a rock at the ITD maintenance station a mile east of Lowell.
According to Reed Hollinshead, ITD office of communications, the memorial idea came up after the fatality accident of ITD Dist. 4 employee Matt Kime last year. Several ITD employees and groups were involved in putting it together. Challenges in the project were spotty records prior to the 1960s, and also determining who died on the job versus those who hadn’t.
“We scoured old newsletters, looked at obituaries and sent list to those in each district who have been around for years and have institutional memories to compare our list against,” Hollinshead stated in an ITD newsletter, The Transporter. “In the end, a list of 30 people emerged.” Changes and updates are anticipated, and the memorial – and accompanying book with the person’s details and a place for people to add memories – will continue to evolve.
“Honoring those who set the pace for us is just the right thing to do,” Hollinshead said. “Scores of transportation workers before us helped to establish solid footing for us to be standing where we are today.”