Family of crash victim confused with RIDOT’s decision to remove highway memorial

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A family in mourning tells 12 News the Rhode Island Department of Transportation dismantled the highway memorial they had built for a relative who tragically died back in May.

James Northup, 27, was killed in a motorcycle crash on I-95 North near Exit 10 in Warwick.

His family, who wishes to remain anonymous, created a memorial at the site of the crash to honor his life and legacy.

“Some days I would drive to the site and remember him there because that is the last place he took his breath,” one family member said.

Last week, Northup’s family said they learned the highway memorial they spent hours putting together was taken down.

“It was heart wrenching,” the family member said. “It was awful because we spent so much time there and we put so much effort into it to make it look nice and it was ripped apart from us, just like the victim was.”

Northup’s family tells 12 News they were not notified by the R.I. Department of Transportation prior to the memorial’s removal.

“My main goal is to keep his memory alive and that was the place to do so,” the family member said.

After reaching out to the state agency for more information, Northup’s family learned the memorial was at RIDOT’s East Greenwich office.

“I was told that whoever is in charge of that section of road requested that all memorials be removed because of safety hazards,” another family member said.

When 12 News first asked about it, a spokesperson for RIDOT said the state does not touch highway memorials.

After reaching out a second time, the spokesperson explained why their memorial was removed:

“In this instance, the memorial was set in a heavy concrete base in the ground and was located in a clear zone which was designed in accordance with federal highway safety standards to allow vehicles that have run off the paved highway to come to a stop, safely, without impacting a fixed object that could cause damage or result in injury,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The RIDOT employees attending to this area made the determination that this fixed object could result in injuries in a crash. RIDOT is required under federal regulations to remove such objects if they present a safety hazard on our Interstate right of ways.”

While Northup’s family understands RIDOT’s reasoning, they don’t believe their memorial was dangerous, especially since it was up for more than five months without incident. They hope RIDOT will rethink their decision to remove the memorial.

Soon after this article was published, a second family reached out to 12 News claiming their loved one’s memorial was also taken down by RIDOT. 12 News has reached out to RIDOT to ask why this memorial was removed and is waiting to hear back.


Below is RIDOT’s full statement regarding highway memorials:

“RIDOT has always tried to be sensitive to the needs of grieving families and friends of loved ones who die as a result of accidents on our roads. It is a challenge for us to balance the needs of grieving families with the need to comply with Federal Highway Administration safety regulations that protect motoring public. We have a long-standing policy that allows these memorials to remain in place until they either have been up for an extended period of time, and clearly are not being attended to, or that they create a public safety hazard.

“In this instance, the memorial was set in a heavy concrete base in the ground and was located in a clear zone which was designed in accordance with federal highway safety standards to allow vehicles that have run off the paved highway to come to a stop, safely, without impacting a fixed object that could cause damage or result in injury. The RIDOT employees attending to this area made the determination that this fixed object could result in injuries in a crash.  RIDOT is required under federal regulations to remove such objects if they present a safety hazard on our Interstate right of ways.

“RIDOT continues to try to remain sensitive to the needs of the bereaved and when we are required to remove them from our roadways, we retain the items at the local garage, and afford the family time to retrieve the objects. The workers in this case actually helped load the items in the relative’s vehicle, including the cross set in very heavy concrete that required two people to move. We hope that the family understands the difficult choices we make every day at RIDOT and that insuring public safety was the only intent of our actions.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Providence

Download Mobile Apps from WPRI 12
DOWNLOAD APPS NOW: Apple App Store | Google Play Store
PINPOINT WEATHER // Quick Links:

Dan Yorke State of Mind: Dan's Daily Update

DYSOM 11/4/20:Joe Cammarano, Political Science Professor, Providence College

More Dan Yorke State of Mind

Don't Miss

Viewer Pa on WPRI.com

LIVE CAMS on WPRI.com

More Live Cams

Community Events & Happenings

More Community