Caltrans tree worker hit by truck on 99, killed

LODI — A Caltrans worker from Modesto died Thursday on Highway 99 after being struck by a truck.

Donald Lichliter, 53, was applying fertilizer to trees along the south side of the highway and was hit while outside of his California Department of Transportation vehicle.

Lichliter was a 27-year employee who worked out of the Caltrans Lodi office and lived in Modesto. He is survived by a wife and two children.

"This is the first death Caltrans has experienced this year, and we hope it will be our last. ... All of our employees want to go home at the end of the night, so slow down," said Zelie Nogueira, a Caltrans spokeswoman.

Lichliter's family declined to comment Thursday evening.

The California Highway Patrol received the first call about the accident at 2:08 p.m. Lichliter was dead when officers arrived, said officer Sid Miller, a CHP spokesman.

The driver of the truck, Glassfab Tempering Services of Tracy, spoke with authorities. It was too early to say if charges will be filed against the driver, Miller said.

It is unclear if Lichliter stepped into the driving lane or if the truck driver veered onto the shoulder, Miller said. The accident occurred south of Victor Road.

Lichliter, a tree maintenance worker, was with another worker applying a routine annual fertilizer treatment to keep the eucalyptus trees healthy and treat a pest, Nogueira said.

When crews are spraying trees, typically they put up a sign that says workers are on the side of the road and then park a half-ton barrier truck, Nogueira said. Then one person drives the truck with the spray in it while another uses a hose to spray the trees.

Nogueira said the trucks are usually off the road. Miller said the CHP believed the truck could have been on the shoulder.

There was one death of a Caltrans employee in 2008 and three in 2007, Nogueira said.