EL PASO COUNTY — Partnering with our viewers to drive change on our roads, we're hearing from many of you about the concerns you have about driving in southern Colorado. One of those people who reached out to us was a mother still struggling with the loss of her teenage son who died in a deadly crash just a few months ago.
Cheryl MacDuff lost her 18-year-old son Charlie after an ugly crash at the intersection of Judge Orr Road and Ellicott Highway in El Paso County. Showing incredible courage, she reached out to News5 to talk about the loss for the first time and why she believed change needed to happen at the scene of the heartbreaking crash.
"We have an urgent message about your son El Paso County is trying to reach you. I dropped the phone. I knew what it meant. He was only 18. He was my only son,” said Cheryl MacDuff with tears in her eyes as she remembered the tragic day of the crash.
After losing her son in a deadly crash last fall, Cheryl MacDuff is speaking publicly for the first time.
"You have to put yourself in someone else's shoes because you never understand until it happens to you and this child of mine was could have been a brilliant person in our future you know he was so smart,” said Cheryl MacDuff.
The crash at the intersection of Ellicott Highway and Judge Orr Road happened in October of last year. Cheryl and her son were new to the area and she says Charlie treated the intersection as a four-way stop instead of a two-way stop, pulling out into oncoming traffic that ended his life.
“His car was hit and thrown into the field you know his the truck that hit him actually went upside down,” said Cheryl MacDuff.
Investigating the intersection for the first time back on February 21, News5 discovered one of the stop signs was near the ground and detached from its post. While there were flashing lights, there wasn't any signage indicating the traffic going 55 mph or faster on Ellicott Highway didn't stop.
Through an open records request we filed with the Colorado State Patrol, we learned since 2012 there were 12 crashes at this intersection leading up to Charlie's deadly crash. Cheryl came to News5 hoping Charlie's story could inspire change.
“It would give put some pieces of my heart back together knowing that we prevented someone else from being hurt,” said Cheryl MacDuff.
News5 took the information we gathered at the scene to El Paso County Commissioner Mark Waller who worked quickly to get county crews on the case.
"You know my heart breaks for families like this obviously to have an 18-year-old son pass away. I have a 21-year-old son and I couldn't imagine what it would be like in this circumstance to have one of my children pass away. My sister died in a car accident when she was 19 years old so I have a little bit of experience dealing with these kind of tragedies,” Waller said.
Within days the intersection of Judge Orr Road and Ellicott Highway was transformed. The stop sign was returned to its post with new street signs. Plus, under the stop signs on each side of the intersection are new signs warning drivers that cross traffic doesn't stop.
“We're all raising our families here we all drive on these roads every day and so that this is one of those circumstances where if you know we can come together with private citizens members of the media and government officials to make our community a little bit safer at least at one intersection I think that's a really great thing and we're all accomplishing the mission together and so I appreciate that very much,” said Commissioner Waller.
For Cheryl MacDuff these changes are meaningful. She hopes these results will show others who may have experienced a tragedy on Colorado roads, you can speak up to drive change.
"I'm super happy that it's happened so quickly. My son died just over four months ago and to have this happen like I feel like he's with us in spirit and that he he wouldn't want to see anybody hurt. So you know so the huge for me and my family,” said Cheryl MacDuff.
In addition to the signage change at the intersection, county officials tell Cheryl they are working to possibly add a memorial sign for Charlie at the intersection. Beyond that, traffic engineers are now reviewing all of the county intersections with flashing lights to see if any other steps need to be taken to drive change.