RALEIGH — N.C. 12 was closed south of Oregon Inlet until mid-afternoon Sunday after an early-morning construction accident killed a state Department of Transportation employee working to clean up tons of sand that have covered parts of the Outer Banks highway since Hurricane Sandy closed the road two weeks ago, DOT said.
The accident occurred sometime between 1 a.m. and 1:45 a.m., DOT spokeswoman Lisa Schell said. [4 p.m. update: DOT identified the worker as Michael Brad Stevenson, 37, of Hertford, who had been a DOT employee for 15 years. He was driving a dump truck, and a second dump truck driver also was injured. The accident occurred on Pea Island just south of Oregon Inlet.]
When the accident occurred, the road was closed to four-wheel-drive traffic, Schell said. There was no traffic on that road other than the DOT crews. The death came after DOT had opened N.C. 12 to four-wheel-drive traffic at 12 noon Saturday for the first time since Oct. 28, when Hurricane Sandy flattened miles of protective dunes, dumped tons of sand on miles of road along Pea Island, and destroyed stretches of pavement north of Rodanthe on Hatteras Island.
DOT said last week that four-wheel-drive vehicles would be allowed to drive in still-deep sand along the N.C. 12 path between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. The road was closed Sunday morning to allow DOT officials and the State Highway Patrol to investigate the fatal accident.
DOT reopened N.C. 12 for 4WD drivers Sunday afternoon, but with reduced hours. The road will be open during daylight hours, only.
Any time we have the death of an N.C. DOT person who is out there doing his job, it hits us all pretty hard, Schell said.
DOT has said it will take a few weeks to finish repairing storm damage to N.C. 12 and the Oregon Inlet bridge.
Until the road is reopened for all traffic, an emergency ferry from Stumpy Point to Rodanthe provides limited mainland access for the seven villages of Hatteras Island. Citing mechanical problems with one of its ferries, DOT said the Stumpy Point service would run on a reduced schedule Sunday, with nine round trips scheduled every two hours.