Clifton J. Scott died Friday doing what he liked most: helping others.
While working at an accident scene early Friday, the motorist-assist operator couldn’t dodge a speeding car allegedly driven by a drunken Blue Springs man that crashed through traffic barriers, emergency flares and other warnings on Interstate 70 in Independence.
Prosecutors later charged the 35-year-old driver with first-degree involuntary manslaughter.
David C. Murdick’s blood-alcohol level registered .184, more than twice the legal limit, when tested at a hospital after the crash, according to court records.
It was the second time in eight years that the Missouri Department of Transportation has lost a motorist-assist operator to a traffic accident in the Kansas City area.
Other area motorist-assist workers, distraught over what happened, were sent home after the accident, which happened about 3 a.m. near the Lee’s Summit Road exit.
The crash closed the interstate for several hours, including most of the morning rush hour.
Scott, who worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, joined the state agency in June 1997 as a maintenance crew worker. He was promoted to senior crew worker before joining motorist assist in August 2002.
He received his 15th anniversary plaque Monday and would have celebrated his 51st birthday Tuesday.
“Our hearts are heavy and we are thinking and praying for his family and friends,” department spokeswoman Jennifer Benefield said.
Scott was one of the youngest residents in his Rinker Road neighborhood in eastern Kansas City, relatives said. He frequently helped older residents clean their gutters, mow their lawns and repair their cars.
“He was a man of service,” said his sister, Xavier Estell. “He was a man of service to the Lord, service to his profession and service to his community.”
Motorist-assist operators respond to vehicular accidents and highway emergencies along with fire and law enforcement personnel and tow operators, Benefield said.
Emergency lights and cones to divert traffic were set up properly after the accident Friday, she said. Under Missouri law, motorists are to move over a lane, when possible, for stopped emergency vehicles, including motorist-assist operators.
Jackson County prosecutors allege Murdick was driving while intoxicated when he sped through emergency cones as Scott took pictures of the scene. An Independence police officer heard a car coming at high speed and yelled a warning, but it was too late.
The eastbound 2007 Honda Accord struck Scott, throwing him several feet, before slamming into the motorist-assist truck, which burst into flames.
Scott died at the scene. Murdick, a bankruptcy lawyer who earned his law degree in 2011, was taken to a hospital, where he remained Friday evening.
The Sader law firm, where Murdick works, offered condolences to the transportation department through a written statement, according to The Star’s reporting partner, KCTV-5.
“Our thoughts, concerns and prayers are first with the family of the gentleman killed,” said the statement, which noted that Murdick’s employment status was under review. “Our firm expresses deep regret and sadness to all affected by this tragedy.”
Scott is the second area motorist-assist operator to die in the line of duty, said Rusty James, an incident management coordinator for the agency.
Julie Love was killed on Interstate 435 at Front Street as she tried to remove a pallet from a traffic lane in July 2004. She had parked on the right shoulder and turned on her truck’s lighted arrow and strobe lights. She crossed two lanes of stopped traffic before a car hit her in the third lane, where the pallet was.
James called Scott’s death tragic and said that he was well respected by his co-workers, law enforcement officers and tow operators.
“It is the same as if we had lost a family member,” James said.
Scott grew up in Kansas City, Kan., and graduated from J.C. Harmon High School in 1979. He worked in manufacturing before joining the transportation department.
He enjoyed family time, working on his computer and listening to music, Estell said.
The father of two was a member of Barker Temple Church of God in Christ. His 14-year-old son lives in Kentucky. His older son, who lived in Virginia, died last year in a motorcycle accident, Estell said. He also leaves a fiancée and a brother.
Vigilant about safe driving, Scott harped on the hazards of distracted driving. He often scolded his sister when she phoned him while driving. Even using a hands-free device was not permitted, she said.
“He would say, ‘Are you on your phone in the car? Unless it is something really important, call me when you get home,’ ” Estell recalled. “He always wanted both hands on the steering wheel.”
His death devastated family members, she said.
“We are hurting,” Estell said. “This is a loss that will never be replaced.”