Hanford worker killed in head-on with off-duty Hanford patrolman

A Hanford worker is dead after reportedly trying to beat morning traffic on the Hanford nuclear reservation and causing a head-on crash Thursday.

The worker collided with a vehicle driven by a member of the Hanford Patrol who was leaving work.

Rajagopal “Raj” Ganapathy, 56, of Richland, died in the crash, according to Benton County Coroner Bill Leach.

Ganapathy was employed by Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), the Department of Energy’s tank farm contractor at Hanford, as an industrial hygiene program supervisor. He had worked at Hanford since 2009.

The Hanford Patrol employee, who was not named, was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland with serious but non-life threatening injuries.

According to the sheriff’s office, Ganapathy was headed north and started passing several vehicles at 6 a.m. on Route 4 South, near Army Loop Way.

His Lexus ran head on into a pickup being driven south on the two-lane road by the Hanford Patrol employee, according to the sheriff’s office.

The crash was beyond the Wye Barricade — the secure entrance to Hanford north of Richland — and was between the barricade and the 200 East Area that is in the center of the restricted site. The speed limit there is 60 mph.

Tank farm workers were sent a message from WRPS President John Eschenberg Thursday morning, before their employee’s name had been made public.

“This individual was a valuable part of our team, and it is with deep sorrow that we mourn our loss,” Eschenberg said. “We extend our sincere condolences to family members, friends and co-workers, and we grieve with them after this tragic incident.”

Grief counseling support services are available through the Hanford occupational health service, workers were told.

Mission Support Alliance, the Hanford contractor in charge of the Hanford Patrol, also sent a message to its employees from MSA President Bob Wilkinson.

“Our sincerest condolences, thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends and co-workers of both employees,” Wilkinson said. “This is a sad day for all of us. Please keep the family and friends in your thoughts as they navigate through this difficult time.”

Driving safety campaign

Route 4 South remained closed in both directions from the Wye Barricade to Canton Avenue for most of the day.

Workers also asked to avoid the Wye Barricade and expect longer commute times. Some were diverted to Route 2 South, which heads north just past the barricade. The Rattlesnake Barricade on Highway 240 remained open.

Hanford leaders have been conducting a driving safety campaign through 2019, urging Hanford workers to drive safely at the 580-square-mile site.

Much of the nuclear reservation is closed to the public. It was used to produce plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program during World War II and the Cold War.

On Wednesday, another Hanford worker was injured in a crash on Highway 240 at Hanford when she hit an elk in the roadway with her Volkswagen Beetle.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.