Complaints about highway de-icing solution

Wednesday, November 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

With the winter wonderland now surrounding us, most people know to be careful on the roads. But some drivers had no warning Tuesday that the roads were slick, because the snow hadn't started falling yet.

Contractors working for the state had poured a de-icing solution. Instead of creating traction for drivers, it sent them sliding. Several accident victims contacted KOTV about who’s liable, so Six in Your Corner reporter Diane White tracked down the information. "It busted my light off at the bottom of it." A busted bumper used to be on Kelli Tomko's pick-up truck, until Tuesday morning. "I was going on the on-ramp from I-44 to 169 and my car slid on the first little turn-off. I fishtailed and my truck - the front of it - ran into the guardrail - I scraped it - and got control of my truck at least."

Her parents thought it was her fault - then learned Kelli was one of several drivers slipping and sliding on parts of Highway 169 - where crews applied de-icer. Oklahoma's Department of Transportation recently hired a private contractor - Virginia Maintenance Services. On Tuesday, KOTV talked with Ed Kellogg with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation: "And this is their first winter storm to do this kind of maintenance. The only thing I can say at this point, they over applied the material, and when you do that, it's a little bit slick." Wednesday, the State Department of Transportation is back-tracking, saying it doesn't know if Virginia Maintenance Services made a mistake or not - but the state is certain about one thing - it is not responsible for accidents and is referring claims to VMS.

Kelli’s mom, Mary Beth Tomko, "I have called VMS. Tulsa Police gave me that number. They've not returned any calls. We feel they're liable for it - they've put this stuff on the road." VMS says its been taking care of roads for 6 years and says it has used this de-icer in the past - and doesn't believe it did anything wrong. Spokesperson Roy Attride couldn't tell us how they'll wouldn’t handle any claims but said: "If somebody feels they've been wronged by us - I certainly want to hear from them," adding "we would take the information and go from there."

Kelli and her mom plan to follow up - especially since the estimate for a new bumper and light is close to $600. Virginia Maintenance Services also told us it followed the manufacturer's guidelines for the de-icer, and said the state has used this product before in the Tulsa area.