As the last chapter of the story explored, the notes from KY OSH investigator Anthony Morley initial interviews with Meade County Road Department employees revealed that the supervisor stated he was up the road eating lunch, the truck driver remembered nothing, and the other employees there that day saw nothing either. When Morley released his “gospel,” the final report that would become the official story of what happened that day, two months after Gene Hobbs’ death, the story had changed to everyone had just came back from lunch, the truck had been signaled to back up, the back up alarm was working, Gene walked behind a moving truck, and by doing so, lost his life as a result. Morley also added that there was an eyewitness who added nothing to the story not already known to the investigator.
Lisa Hobbs says that isn’t true. State Trooper Brooks spoke to the eyewitness that day, Lisa’s son spoke to the witness in the weeks following Gene’s death, Ron Hayes with the F.I.G.H.T. Project would speak to the witness, and a Federal OSHA investigator would eventually come to Meade County and obtain a sworn statement after the family filed a Complaint About State Program Administration (CASPA) due to the way the case was handled. Hayes points out that unlike the county’s story, the witness’s version of what happened that day has never waivered in the least bit, regardless of who he told the story to. Out of all the documents and reports that have been generated from the multiple agencies involved in the tragedy that day along with reviews and complaints that followed, he is the only man who says he saw what happened that day. What follows is the sworn, written statement the eyewitness provided William Cochran, a federal OSHA director.
“I hereby swear or affirm and say: My daughter and son-in-law live in the same subdivision as I do. I was on my way home from there. They were doing road work, and I was waiting for them to waive me around. While I was setting there, the dump truck pulled up past the paver and immediately started backing. The rest of the crew was on the side of the road on break. The driver was in a hurry. He was backing, I would say 5-8 mph. The victim was standing on the far side where I was at raking on the edge of the road. He was wearing a jacket with a hood on and coveralls over that. He did not have an orange or yellow vest on. When the truck backed up, it ran over him. The crew was not in a position to witness anything. When I saw him hit the guy, I jumped out of my truck and ran towards him. The driver was looking in his mirrors. The whole truck jumped when he hit the victim. When I ran towards the truck, he was looking in the mirrors and could not see me trying to wave him off. The driver proceeded forward and ran over the victim a second time. The truck was moving so fast, it knocked him forcefully flat face down. Then he was run over and subsequently ran over forward again. The truck driver never saw the man until he ran over him the second time. After he pulled back over him, the driver opened his door and saw me waving. That is when he saw the victim. He yelled to other guys and told them he just ran over so and so (man’s name) and the Foreman ran over there and yelled for them to call 911. When the driver got out of the truck, the driver said to me, “I didn’t see him. I just ran over my best friend.” I got back in my truck and went back up 5e road to my son-in-laws house. I went in and told him and my wife what happened and got a sheet. Me and my son-in-law went back up there with the sheet to cover him up. The ambulance had just arrived when we got back up there. They had already covered him up. He was still there at approximately 3:00. I was worried about the school bus with kids seeing him. There was no spotter present. The driver never got out of the truck to look to see if anyone was present. He just pulled up and backed up rapidly in one motion. They said the truck had a backup alarm, but I never heard an alarm. I was within 20 feet, and there was no alarm. There was not a lot of noise. They were breaking and equipment was not running. The only noise was from the dump truck. The only work going on was the victim raking and the truck backing up and dumping. I would have heard an alarm. They said he had a heart attack. That is not true. He was working until he took his last breath when he was ran over. I do not have any hearing problems or any hearing loss. I don’t work for the county. I was just a man who witnessed this. If he would have had a “ground man” or a spotter, this would have never happened. This is something that is on a CDL test. I had a CDL. I’m retired now. I drove for 30 years. The only person who talked to me was a county officer (Sheriff), and he asked me to stay until the State Police got there. I talked with and gave a statement to the State Police. No State Person/OSHA person ever contacted me or asked any questions. No one from KY OSH ever talked to me.”
“Read that statement and tell me he didn’t add a whole lot that wasn’t in Morley’s report,” Lisa stated. Stay tuned as the Gene Hobbs tragedy continues to explore what transpired following his untimely death at the workplace.
Reach Chad Hobbs at firstname.lastname@example.org.