Work zone awareness week: Remembering Hays teen killed in highway accident

Local

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) is teaming up with organizations across the country to educate drivers on the dangers of work zones for National Work Zone Awareness Week.

#GoOrangeKS is a statewide effort working to keep both drivers and workers safe in street, road, and highway work zones.

Throughout 2020, KDOT logged 1,243 work zone-related crashes. Each day, nearly 4 crashes occurred.  In those accidents, 400 people were injured and two people were killed.

KDOT is now asking drivers to slow down, pay attention, and save lives. “Slow down, see the cones, see the signs, and be aware that there are people out there, just like you and me, that are doing their job as best as they can so they can get home back to their families,” said Hector Terrones, KDOT Maintenance Supervisor Sub-Area 3.

For one Hays mother, work zone awareness hits close to home.

Just weeks ago Stacie Rupp’s life changed forever when she heard the news that her son Gabriel had been killed in a highway accident.

Gabriel “Gabe” Rupp was 18 years old and a senior at Hays High School. He loved fishing, sketching, and playing guitar. Stacie says his smile and easy-going personality lit up any room.

“He was just so full of joy, and that was kinda like his gift to share with the world was just to make people smile,” said Gabe’s mother, Stacie Rupp.

On March 30, Gabe was removing safety equipment from a construction site in Jewell County when he was struck by a semi. He did not survive the accident. 

“His friend held him, and he was with him when he took his last breaths, and he said he looked very peaceful and that he was okay,” said Rupp.

Although grieving his loss, Stacie is speaking out to help others. She says, she hopes drivers will slow down and use extra caution while traveling through work zones. “Hopefully, it gets people thinking and maybe we can avoid this in the future even if it’s just one life,” she said.

She says she hopes to help prevent another family from feeling the pain of losing a loved one. “Make sure you tell people you love them, and you care about them and do it for Gabe,” she said.

Stacie is among many advocates working to bring awareness to work zone safety. She says she hopes her son’s story can live on through saving others.

Tuesday, April 27, marks the one-month anniversary since Gabe’s death.

Throughout this week, a number of bridges and buildings across the state will be lit up in orange to promote safety in work zones.

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