A dangerous ramp leading to and from the Will Rogers Turnpike is now under review following the drowning of a Claremore couple last week.

Jerry and Terry McCollum died July 5 when they ran off an entrance/exit ramp and plunged down a steep embankment into a 25-foot retention pond.

That ramp takes drivers on and off the Will Rogers Turnpike at Verdigris, just south of the 266 overpass. The only safety devices in place are reduced speed limit signs and “barriers” in the form of a curb-like median and plastic posts with reflectors.

This is of concern to several area residents including the owner of the property where the pond is located.

Officials with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority say they are considering a guardrail or some other safety device in light of last week’s fatalities.

“We have been reviewing the accidents there, including the one that happened last week, to see if anything more needs to be done,” Kristi Allison said. Allison is the interim public information officer with the Authority. “There are speed limit signs and barriers already in place.”

In a letter to the editor published in the Claremore Daily Progress in September 2002, Carolyn Cegielski stated two similar accidents within the first three months of the ramp opening. At the time, the letter asked authorities to consider installing an additional safety device there.

Cegielski, whose family owns the property where the pond is located, described the first two accidents: A May 25, 2002, accident where “ a young man escaped serious injury and possible drowning after his truck was totaled,” and a Sept. 3, 2002, accident involving, “an elderly, one-legged man,” who “dragged himself to the turnpike edge to lie, wave and wait until a Rogers County Deputy Sheriff came to his aid. His totaled van was pulled from the same pond which is on my property.”

Other residents who live near the pond say although this is the first time there has been a fatality, they too have seen “five or six” vehicles run off the ramp and into the pond.

Emergency crews worked for an hour and a half to find McCollum’s vehicle, which was fully submerged. A witness told authorities he saw a man attempting to escape through the cars back window. His effort was unsuccessful. More than three hours after the accident occurred at 12:19 p.m., crews recovered the bodies from the back seat.

Contact Krystal J. Carman, newsed@swbell.net