On the morning of Monday, September 17, 2012, an uninsured motorist in Middletown, N.J., killed my father, Louis Crisitello, in a hit-and-run accident. As the proud owner of Lou’s Lawn Maintenance for over 30 years, my father was greatly loved and appreciated by all of his customers and the community. He was respected among the brotherhood of landscapers and considered himself a friend to everyone in the business. While on the job, my father was walking alongside his box truck to get his orange road cone to put on the driver’s side of his vehicle as a safety precaution. Before he was able to reach the back of his truck, a young woman struck him violently with her vehicle and continued to drive, fleeing the scene.
According to the latest projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published in September 2012, approximately 16 percent of fatal transportation incidents in 2011 involved pedestrians who were struck by vehicles. Of the 312 fatal work injuries involving pedestrians struck by vehicles, 61 occurred in work zones. As a result of the accident, my father’s body was so badly damaged that we were warned not to see him and forced to have a closed casket funeral. The aforementioned statistics symbolize individuals, like my father, who died unnecessary and undignified deaths.
My father was a selfless man who wanted nothing more than to provide for those around him. He was caring, supportive and warm-hearted. He took great pride in his family and his career. When it came to work, my father was a bull. I always believed that it was impossible to knock my father down. Though he took some hard hits over the course of his career, I can’t think of a situation where he didn’t just stand up, brush himself off and return to work. There is no one, at any age, able to work as long and as hard as my dad worked. Now, at 62 years old, as he neared retirement, my father has become another sad statistic.
In 2011, according to the BLS, fatalities in the landscape services industry increased to 167 from 133 in 2010, rising 16 percent. Fatal work injuries in the building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupational group were up 14 percent to 265 fatalities in 2011-the highest level since 2006. The biggest increases within this occupational group were among landscapers.
With over 30 years in the landscaping business, my father was always careful to exercise the proper safety precautions while on the job and encouraged his colleagues to do the same. I’ll never know all of the specifics regarding my father’s death, but I’m confident that it was the result of someone else’s carelessness. In this era of short attention spans and a seemingly endless number of electronic devices, distracted driving is becoming a more prevalent danger every day. In 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and an estimated additional 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver (www.distraction.gov).
My father truly appreciated the little things in life. He had a childlike innocence that was infectious; it only reinforces the fact that he died much too young. My dad taught me to live with gratitude, and I am thankful for every day that I got to spend with him. However, I cannot accept the manner in which he was taken from my family. I wonder what the driver was thinking as she drove away with a broken windshield; did she even look back in her rearview mirror? There is no answer that can excuse the lack of common human decency exhibited by the individual that morning.
The loss of my father has left a void in my life that I can’t imagine ever being filled. I urge everyone in the landscaping and lawn maintenance business to be extra careful when working nearby roadways and stay alert for distracted drivers. In short, protect yourselves and look out for one another. Together we can make safe driving a new priority and invigorate the public. We have the ability to strengthen local law and enforcement efforts. Together we can prevent another senseless death from occurring, and in turn, make our roads safer for everyone.
In Loving Memory of
December 13, 1949 – September 17, 2012