Thruway worker remains unconscious after crash on I-90

NYSP urges drivers to slow down and pay attention after Thruway workers hit on I-90

NYSP urges drivers to slow down and pay attention after Thruway workers hit on I-90

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A Thruway worker hit by a truck on I-90 near Chili is still unconscious as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a family spokesperson.

Mark Vara, 58 from Scottsville, remains hospitalized in guarded condition. He had been working with 62-year-old Vincent Gimmarva in a work zone near exit 47 on Thursday when police say a truck driver came through the zone, hitting them both. Giammarva was killed on scene.

According to a page on CaringBridge set up for Vara, it may take weeks to months for Vara to regain consciousness. He has many broken bones that need surgery and has traumatic brain injuries. “His injuries are complex and we have a long road ahead of us,” says the page.

The family of Vara shared these photos:

Drugs and alcohol were both ruled out, and the driver — a 64-year-old from the Syracuse area — is cooperating with police. However, state troopers say it’s too soon to tell what exactly caused the crash. 

“It’s an ongoing investigation, our accident reconstruction unit has come out — they were out there [Thursday],” Trooper Lynnea Crane said. “Sometimes it takes months to process all the information. so they’ll try to figure out what actually caused the accident.”

Crane, the Public Information Officer for Troop E, said there were 700 roadway workers killed nationally last year. Department of Transportation data shows the year prior, 821 died. Here in New York State, the DOT says 144 people were injured and three killed in a work zone in 2023.

The cause in many of these cases? 

“Going too fast, not paying attention, and [drivers] not giving themselves enough time to slow down or move over,” Crane said.

State police encourage drivers to put their phones down when a work zone comes up, pump the brakes, and even consider turning down the music. They issued nearly 3 thousand tickets last year enforcing speeding, distracted driving, and similar traffic violations. 

New legislation also reflects a push for roadway safety. 

Last summer, the state started a five-year pilot program to automatically ticket drivers for speeding in work zones. And this past March, the expanded Move Over Law went into effect, meaning that drivers now have to switch lanes and slow down for any car or vehicle pulled over on the side of a roadway. 

But police said that’s not enough without drivers actively paying attention. 

“When you’re in a work zone, please, slow down. Please, pay attention,” Trooper Crane said. “If this was your loved one […] friends, family, anyone working roadside – you would want them to be as safe as possible.”