BANGOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Van Buren County road crew worker was killed in a crash in a construction zone northwest of Lawrence Friday morning.

It happened on County Road 681 between 44th and 48th avenues. Michigan State Police said the driver of a pickup truck ignored signs to stop, rear-ended another vehicle while trying to pass and hit the worker, who was manning a traffic control sign.

MSP said drugs are believed to be involved but Lt. DuWayne Robinson said no arrests were made.

“We don’t know what drugs are involved, but we just believe that it is a factor,” Robinson said. “Our investigators are working on confirming those facts, on getting lab work and analysis to further … confirm our suspicion and then we’ll move forward with an investigation of traffic violation causing death.”

Neither the driver of the pickup, a 30-year-old Hartford man, nor the person in the other car were injured.

The scene following a deadly crash on County Road 681 in Lawrence Township on March 3, 2023. (Michigan State Police)
The scene following a deadly crash on County Road 681 northwest of Lawrence on March 3, 2023.

The road worker was identified as 58-year-old Rene Rangel of Dowagiac.

“We’re just heartbroken… We believe this (death) was preventable,” Robinson said. “He is a public worker, a public servant. He’s out here making the roads safer for all of us. Unfortunately, it cost him his life.”

Van Buren County Road Commission recalled Rangel as a dedicated team member who “made many great contributions during his employment.”

“Today is a difficult day for our Road Commission family,” Linnea Rader, acting managing director for the road commission, said in a statement. “I join all our employees and Board in mourning the loss of one of our own in a tragic accident. A family is now devastated, and our community must now deal with a senseless tragedy. To family and friends who are hurting today, we share your pain. Please know that there is support out there for you.”

“Their colleague, their friend who lost his life today, they want to support this family in whatever way possible,” Lt. Robinson said.

Robinson urged drivers to play close attention to workers in construction zones and obey all signs.

The road was blocked off while emergency responders and occupational safety investigators were on scene before reopening around 1 p.m.

The road commission was closed Friday in mourning.