Red light cameras down during wreck

Becky Campbell • May 25, 2012 at 10:35 PM

The help police investigators expected to get from a red light camera at an intersection where a fatal motorcycle crash happened on Wednesday might not be available because the camera was not operating at the time.

Johnson City Police Lt. Larry Williams said when he requested a copy of the video the Redflex camera should have recorded, he learned the camera was down.

There’s still a chance, Williams said, the camera’s hard drive will contain the information he wants to review.

“There’s a possibility the hard drive in the camera itself could contain the video,” Williams said.

“The still cameras and the video were not working.”

The crash killed Burrell “Gene” Mitchell, 39, of Johnson City, and injured his passenger, Jennifer Newman, 29, also of Johnson City.

Mitchell hit the passenger door of a Ford F150 pickup that turned across his path.

“We’ll just have to go on the witness statements” and other information gathered from the scene, Williams said.

Witnesses to the crash include another motorcyclist who was riding alongside Mitchell and a man in a car behind the pickup that turned in front of the motorcycles.

It happened around 10:20 p.m. at the intersection of West State of Franklin and West Walnut Street as Mitchell was traveling south on West State of Franklin.

As he entered the intersection at West Walnut Street, Seth Green, 19, of Bluff City, made a left turn onto West Walnut from the opposite direction.

Witnesses told Williams that the red truck made a sudden left turn into the path of the two motorcycles. One biker was able to avoid the truck, but Mitchell could not.

Green told police that he stopped at the traffic light behind another vehicle and the light was a green ball, but then turned to a green arrow.

That account doesn’t match the traffic light pattern at the intersection, police said.

“The traffic light sequence at this intersection does not turn from a green ball to a green arrow,” Williams said.

The lone red light camera at the intersection is positioned to monitor northbound traffic on State of Franklin. It should have recorded the movements of Green’s pickup and if the camera had been operating it would have captured the crash.

Mitchell’s death at that intersection is the first there this year, and there were none in the last two years.

The intersection has had a total of 23 crashes, two injuries and one fatality this year. In 2011, there were 75 crashes and seven injuries, and in 2010 there were 91 crashes and 12 injuries.

Williams is also waiting on toxicology results for Mitchell and Green. The police report indicated that Mitchell had been drinking, and witnesses told police the motorcycle was speeding when he hit the truck that turned in front of him.

Mitchell was wearing a helmet, but it was a type not approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to police. Newman was wearing a DOT-approved full-face helmet.

She was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center and reportedly treated for a fractured wrist.

A passenger in Green’s truck, Kaliegh A. Hall, 18, of Piney Flats, was also transported for a possible injury, but a second passenger in the truck, Thomas Roark, 20, of Johnson City, was not injured.

The crash is still under investigation and charges are pending.

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