GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It is a day the Gulfport Police Department will never forget. On Aug. 14, 2008, a driver was attempting to turn left out of the post office on Highway 49 and collided with Lt. Rob Curry's patrol motorcycle. Hours later, the 39-year-old was pronounced dead.
"We have pictures of him as a constant reminder," Sgt. Damon McDaniel said. "A lot of the officers, from time to time, when something happens whether it is traffic related or something in the field, somebody will say 'remember when Rob,' so we never, ever forget him. We loved him that much."
The 14 year police veteran's death prompted officials to make Highway 49 safer.
"The crashes were really big around the business section of Walmart and the different car lots and hotel row area all the way to Dedeaux Road," McDaniel said. "When they looked at it, they were looking at what type of crashes were occurring and it was common; the left turn across traffic."
MDOT began studies and asked the police department what they thought would make the highway safer for drivers.
"When they conferred with the police department about what type of crashes we had the same concept in mind; close the medians," said McDaniel.
In 2009, MDOT installed medians along Highway 49, restricting turns only at traffic lights.
"We will always have crashes, and we still have crashes in that area," McDaniel said. "I think we have a different type of crash that is occurring now. Now that the vehicles are unable to make a left turn across traffic, the traffic backs up a little bit at the intersections. We started having more of what we call a rear end collision or rear end go stop. That means vehicles are barely moving and granted the injuries are minimal."