Police: Traffic camera sensors stopped day before deadly Johnson City crash

Becky Campbell • May 30, 2012 at 8:33 AM

Sensors in a red light camera monitoring an intersection where a fatal motorcycle crash occurred last week stopped working, possibly the night before the crash happened.

But video of the crash is not critical to the investigation, said Johnson City Police Maj. Mark Sirois, also the department’s interim police chief.

“According to the company (Redflex), the disruption in service for the traffic safety camera at the intersection of (West) State of Franklin (Road) and (West) Walnut Street occurred either late on May 22 or early on May 23,” Sirois said. “The indication on a work order issued to correct the problem was that there was an issue with the sensors.

Sirois said violations have not been captured since the sensors stopped working, but urged drivers to follow traffic laws.

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

Sirois said traffic crash investigators will rely on witness statements, evidence and measurements collected from the scene to make a final determination about what happened.

“We’ve been doing traffic accident reconstruction for many, many, many years prior to having traffic cameras in place,” he said. “The traffic safety camera is an extra layer to that. That would be something handy to have but we’ll proceed with what we have at this point,” he said.

The wreck happened around 10:20 p.m. May 23 at the intersection as Mitchell was traveling south on West State of Franklin.

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

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

Witnesses told Lt. Larry 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.

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