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Monday, January 17, 2011
Jamie Holter, WSDOT Communications, 206-719-7535
PRESTON – The Washington State Department of Transportation’s thoughts today are with the family of Billy Rhynalds, a 12-year veteran of the WSDOT maintenance team out of Preston. Rhynalds was killed by a falling tree on Highway 203 south of Carnation last night, Sunday, Jan. 16 at 9 p.m. during the rain storm.
“Rhynalds was well-liked, a hard worker willing to do every shift,” said Jim McBride, WSDOT Maintenance Superintendent and Rhynald’s supervisor. “He loved his job.”
The evening storm in east King County kicked up the wind and the rain had been falling for hours. Water was over the roadway at Highways 202 and 203. Billy, who usually worked the day shift, was called out to help close roads and clear water. When communications lines fell near Carnation, he went to the area to set up cones to keep traffic moving but protect drivers from the wires. A cottonwood fell and hit Billy and his truck.
Rhynalds, of North Bend, came to WSDOT in 1998, late in his work life, after careers with the Washington National Guard and Weyerhaeuser. He enjoyed the variety of jobs with WDSOT maintenance and he loved working out of East King County. “He enjoyed the trees,” said McBride.
Rhynalds has a large extended family in the area, including brothers, sisters, children and grandchildren. His wife, Betty, says he doted on his grandchildren. He was in a position to retire, but loved his job and was so well-liked by the rest of his crew, his family couldn’t talk him into it.
“Billy is the kind of selfless, dedicated employee we have at WSDOT,” said Paula Hammond, Secretary of Transportation. “They take the job of public service seriously. They want to be there to help the public get where they are going no matter what the conditions. It’s a sad day for us.”
WSDOT is providing peer trauma support for employees.
Since 1950, 59 Washington State Department of Transportation employees have lost their lives in work zone-related activities. Each spring, WSDOT holds a Worker’s Memorial to honor those fallen workers and remind everyone about the importance of work zone safety.
WSDOT's mission is to keep people, businesses and the economy moving by operating and improving the state's transportation systems. To learn more about what we're doing, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/news for pictures, videos, news and blogs. Real time traffic information is available at www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic or by dialing 511
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