Worker a victim of suspected drunken driver
Kevin Bascue is diligent about safety while collecting garbage for Waste Management, so much so that he carries some of those work habits into his home life.
As safety-minded as Bascue has been, the 41-year-old wasn’t ready for what hit him Jan. 15 while going about his duties: A suspected drunken driver slammed into him at 35 mph. The impact broke both of Bascue’s legs and his left arm and caused bleeding under his skull.
He was hospitalized for more than a week at St. Mary’s Hospital, and doctors inserted a metal rod into one leg to try to repair damage caused when his leg was crushed. Bascue’s body may never be the same. Doctors said it’s likely he suffered nerve damage, although the extent is not yet known.
“It’s a dangerous job. It always has been,” Bascue said from his hospital bed Friday.
He is expected to be discharged today and eventually will go back to work for the company on light duty.
“You take your life into your hands when you walk on the side of the road,” he added. “Patterson, Broadway, Little Park Road, we actually have to be on these busy roads.”
Bascue and his wife, Bonnie, are a Grand Junction couple with four children, ages 2 to 16. He has worked off and on for Waste Management for the past 15 years. The physical work, he said, makes him feel 10 to 20 years older than his age.
Yet, what he finds most disheartening is the attitude of motorists. Some drivers don’t slow down when they see a garbage truck, or they honk their horns or give the “happy finger,” as Bonnie, calls it.
“It’s our routine that when he leaves for work that I say, ‘Have a good day. Be safe,’ ” Bonnie Bascue said.
The couple shared a joke later after the crash that maybe she forgot to repeat that mantra the morning before her husband left for work on Jan. 15. She said he follows some of his company’s strict safety standards, such as slowing down to 10 mph before turning, even while driving the family’s minivan.
Kevin Bascue was hit by the vehicle on Iowa Avenue in Palisade just after 1 p.m.
According to an arrest affidavit, 50-year-old driver Debra Kay Devoe hit a person, later identified as Bascue, while passing the garbage truck. Devoe left the scene without stopping to help, drove to a home about a block away and was soon contacted by Palisade police officers, the affidavit said. Witnesses at the scene had seen the vehicle drive away to the nearby home, the affidavit said.
Devoe’s vehicle had extensive damage to the windshield, a headlight, the front driver’s-side door and quarter panels on each side of the vehicle, and Devoe said she was sorry that she hit the man and asked if he was OK, the affidavit said.
Devoe was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, vehicular assault, drug and methamphetamine possession, speeding, driving with a revoked license and driving without insurance. She was in Mesa County Jail on Friday in lieu of $10,000 bond.
Colorado State Patrol Trooper Dan Moseman determined Devoe was traveling 30 to 35 mph in a posted 20 mph zone when her vehicle rammed into a Dumpster and a fence and then hit Bascue, who was at the right rear end of the garbage truck, working the truck’s controls.
Bascue’s co-worker, Kelli Seelig, said she has worked for Waste Management for 14 years and has become accustomed to impatient drivers and mean comments.
“A lot of people don’t see you,” she said. “They just think you’re the scum of the earth.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, garbage collecting was the nation’s sixth most dangerous job in 2008. Fishing workers, loggers and aircraft pilots, in that order, topped the list. Additionally, the BLS reported the nation’s highest number of work-related fatalities occurred on highways in 2008, with 1,149 deaths.