Kenny Sersion and the Colorado Springs Utility Scorpion
For traﬃc controllers around the world, life can change in the blink of an eye. Being out on the road can be a very dangerous job, and for roadside workers the risk of injury or death goes up exponentially. According to the Federal Highway Administration, "from 1982 through 2017, 27,037 individuals lost their lives in work zone crashes." That averages to 773 lives lost per year over a 35 year period.
For Kenny Sersion, a 57-year-old Traﬃc Control Supervisor from Colorado Springs, these risks are a reality every day that he goes to work. As a Traﬃc Control Supervisor, not only does his own safety rest in his hands, but the safety of every work crew he leads. He has been shouldering these responsibilities working in and amongst traﬃc for over fifteen years, with thirteen of those spent at Midwest Barricade and the other two and a half at Colorado Springs Utility.
When he goes to work, it's not only Kenny who has to worry about the potential dangers of his occupation, but his wife, Tonya, and teenage son, Austin, as well. Kenny and Tonya don't like telling each other to "be safe" when they say goodbye, so they've developed their own sweet way of saying those words without verbally saying them. "She leaves a light on for me," Kenny explained, "by leaving a lantern in the window. When I get home, I turn out the light, and she knows I made it home safely."
Earlier this year, tragedy nearly struck the Sersion household when Kenny was out on the job one night. He and a crew of two electricians were working a twelve hour night shift, changing and checking streetlights on the median of Highway 21. They would be using and blocking oﬀ the left three lanes of the highway, and Kenny's job was to trail behind them with the towable attenuator and flashing lights in order to redirect traﬃc away from the work zone. Kenny and the electricians stopped at a particular light, and the electricians told him it would take about ten to fifteen minutes to run new wires up to the light pole, then they could be on their way to the next one.
When the impact occurred, Kenny didn't even see it coming. It was around 11:30P.M., and he had just climbed back into his truck, sat down in the driver's seat, started up the truck, and taken a quick bite of his pizza dinner. Everything happened so quickly that Kenny didn't even have a chance to put his seatbelt on. When the intoxicated driver of a pick-up truck hit the rear of the crash truck, he was tossed around the cabin like a rag-doll as it rolled ahead forty feet, with no extra protection from airbags that never deployed.
When everything came to a stop, Kenny lifted his head from where he had landed in the cabin in confusion. He could see the other cars on the highway slowing down to a stop behind him, and the pick-up truck that had just impacted the Scorpion® Towable Attenuator pulling over to the right shoulder. It took him a moment to realize what had actually happened, but it didn't take long for his instincts to kick in. Once his brain processed that there was an impact, his first reaction was to check and make sure that his electricians were safe.
When Kenny got out of the crash truck, he was able to witness the scope of the accident. A red pick-up truck sat on the other side of the highway, with its front end crumpled. The Scorpion had taken a serious hit from the impacting pick-up traveling at least 60 MPH without any braking prior to the impact. The Scorpion completely protected Kenny, his work crew, and the pick-up driver by absorbing the energy of the impact. It is the sole reason no one was seriously hurt. Had the Scorpion not been there, the impacting driver would likely have been dead on impact, and the force could have easily ejected Kenny from the front of the vehicle onto the road. When talking about the Scorpion's role in protecting him and his crew, Kenny said "[the Scorpion] saved my life... if I didn't have it on there it would have been a whole diﬀerent story. A fatality, for sure, if not for me, for the [impacting driver]."
The accident was the first impact he has ever been a part of, but Kenny said that when he's out on a job, he's always thinking about what he would do in a crash situation. When operating a crash truck, it's on him to make sure that the site is safe and secure, and that those around him are protected. To do this, he always follows three steps when setting up a site. First, he has to make sure that he's safe, because "if [he's] not safe, [he] can't take care of everyone else," said Kenny. "Then I have to make sure that the crews I'm working with [are] safe and going to go home to their families, the same way they came to work, but a couple dollars richer." After both of those steps are complete, he has to make sure that other automobile and pedestrian traﬃc is protected — making sure he isn't blocking any pedestrian pathways, sustaining a clear line of sight for other drivers, and making sure they have a clear view of his truck with enough time to get over before they reach the work zone.
During our interview, Kenny reflected on the accident with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, as "his girls", a group of hens, clucked in the background. He reiterated over and over again how blessed he was to be alive, and to have lived the life he has. "I'm just blessed. I know I say that a lot, but I truly am," Kenny stated genuinely. Now, when his wife leaves their light on, it holds even more importance than it did before, after Kenny nearly didn't return home to turn it oﬀ.
Despite his close encounter, Kenny is eager to get back out on the job, after being on a break from the injuries he sustained from the crash. "You can't let fear rule your life," said Kenny. "This is just a small bump in the road. Put a temporary bump sign up, ‘cause I'm going to be back up and going soon." The TrafFix team is so thankful that the Scorpion was able to give Kenny and his work crew the ability to return home to their families that night, and know that it will continue to play its part in keeping traﬃc controllers like Kenny safe around the world.