Sulphur citizens push for light at deadly intersection

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SULPHUR, Okla. (AP) -- A Murray County commissioner is among a group of citizens which has started a petition to install flashing red lights at an intersection where at least nine people have died in the last 20 years.

"I'd give anything in the world to not have to run out there in the middle of the night ever again and hold somebody's head in my arms and pray for them while we wait for the ambulance," said Leta Castleberry, who for 34 years has lived about 20 yards from the intersection of U.S. 177 and Dolberg Road north of Sulphur.

She is often the first one on the scene of accidents there.

Those who live near the intersection say the problem is a rise in U.S. 177 that peaks at the intersection and makes it difficult for drivers coming off Dolberg to see oncoming vehicles. It also makes turning off the highway dangerous.

Castleberry was there two weeks ago when 16-year-old Lennissa Daniels died at the intersection.

Daniels was driving west on Dolberg Road the night of Oct. 1 and didn't see an oncoming vehicle traveling on U.S. 177.

"I don't think anybody could ever imagine how much it hurts to have a little girl like that torn up and hurting, looking up at you and asking you to make the pain go away," Castleberry said through tears.

"It's so awful to even see what's happened to her, but to not be able to do anything except pray and try to tell her to hold on just tears you up inside."

Murray County Commissioner Jim Britt said he began trying to get improvements made at the intersection when his father was killed there in 1988.

He and his sisters, Faye and Maye Rankin, have started the petition drive to encourage the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to spend an estimated $40,000 to install flashing red lights at the intersection.

Maye Rankin said she is tired of state officials complaining about the cost of the improvement.

"They've said it would take $40,000 to put up those lights, and they say it like that ought to make us understand why they don't do it," she said. "Well, just how many people's lives does it take to be worth $40,000? That's what I want to know."

Britt's crews are scheduled to put chatter strips on both sides of Dolberg Road as it approaches the intersection in an effort to remind motorists they are coming to an intersection. He also said he hopes the state will consider lowering the speed limit for a longer stretch of highway on the approach to the intersection.

"They're never going to make it a perfectly safe intersection," Britt said. "But there are lots of little things that could be done, and should have been done a long time ago."