Mower driver charged after motorcyclist killed in Johnston crash
Posted April 24, 2015
Clayton, N.C. — A state contractor has been charged after a motorcyclist was killed Friday morning in a wreck on eastbound N.C. Highway 42 in Johnston County.
According to State Highway Patrol investigators, Anthony Suggs Jr., 31, of Clayton, was driving his motorcycle along N.C. 42 near Thanksgiving Fire Department Road at about 7:45 a.m. when he approached a tractor that was mowing grass on the shoulder. The driver of the tractor, William Pittman, pulled into Suggs' path, troopers said.
Suggs, a father of four, hit the back of the tractor and was thrown from the motorcycle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Speed wasn't a factor in the crash, and Suggs was wearing a helmet, said Lt. Jeff Gordon, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol.
Pittman, 31, of Benson, has been charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and unsafe movement.
Pittman works for ELC Group in Dunn, a mowing subcontractor for the state Department of Transportation. Company officials declined to comment Friday.
Suggs, who went by "T.J.," was a rising young aerospace engineer at UTC Aerospace Systems in Wilson. He graduated from Cornell in 2005. UTC spokesman Dan Coulom called the crash a "terrible tragedy."
DOT spokesman Mike Charbonneau said the agency checks safety records of its contractors.
"For a contractor to be pre-qualified for NCDOT to work with them and to continue to work with them, safety is something that we check and something that we monitor," Charbonneau said.
The highway was closed for more than two hours after the wreck, and Charbonneau said DOT will conduct a thorough investigation.
"We'll be talking with investigators, talking with the contractor involved here, looking at our own safety procedures," he said. "It's a terrible thing. We never want this to happen, but when it does, we want to look at everything and make sure we're all taking steps to prevent something like this from happening again."
Gordon said collisions involving mowing tractors are rare and that the stretch of highway where Friday's crash occurred isn't considered dangerous.