Equipment operator cited after striking woman's car coming out of I-77 construction zone

IREDELL COUNTY, NC (FOX 46) - A Statesville woman was injured after a piece of construction equipment coming out of the construction zone on Interstate 77 hit her car and caused her to veer off the road, officials said.

The incident happened on southbound Interstate 77 near mile marker 36 about 8:39 p.m. Tuesday.

According to North Carolina State Highway Patrol, an un specified piece of construction equipment struck Natasha Rhinehardt as she was driving her white Ford Escape in the middle lane. The piece of equipment had pulled out of the construction area to cross over the highway to the right shoulder. 

Rhinehardt was taken to Carolinas Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. 

The equipment operator, Mark Gill, received a citation for unsafe movement. The worker's name has not yet been released. 

FOX 46 Charlotte reached out to North Carolina Department of Transportation for a statement, but a spokesperson told us they cannot comment at this time.

I-77 Mobility partners released the following statement:

"We are aware of the incident that took place last night. Our safety team is conducting its own internal investigation of the incident. We also will review the N.C. Highway Patrol's report when it is available. Safety for all in the work zone is our priority. Crews receive regular briefings on safety protocols to help ensure the work area and road conditions are safe. We work diligently, in cooperation with NCDOT, to address issues brought to our attention.”

OSHA released a statement saying that it would not be investigating this incident. See the statement to FOX 46 Charlotte below:

NCDOL’s OSH Division will not be investigating this incident as it does not fall within our jurisdiction, nor are there standards that speak to it. If an employee drives a piece of equipment out of the construction area and on to the interstate, he or she was subject to motor vehicle laws enforced by law enforcement officers, in this case the NC SHP.

There are no current OSHA regulations that prohibit a piece of construction equipment from moving across the highway and on to the right shoulder. We wouldn’t be able to cite the employer for that action – as there is no current standard that speaks to this. Additionally, we cannot cite the employer or owner of the equipment because they would not have had knowledge that the equipment operator would go when traffic was not clear.


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