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Trucker charged in crash that killed NC mental health director

Posted July 5, 2012

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— Police on Thursday charged the driver of a logging truck in a Wednesday afternoon crash in north Raleigh that killed the head of North Carolina's mental health services.

Clifton Paul Ellis Jr., 28, of 1715 Richardson Bass Road in Kenly, was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision.

Ellis' truck, which is owned by Creech's Trucking of Smithfield, hit bicyclist Steven Laverne Jordan, 49, of Raleigh, from behind in the right lane of northbound Louisburg Road north of Perry Creek Road.

Investigators determined that Ellis didn't shift far enough into another lane to pass Jordan, according to a police report released Thursday morning. Ellis told police that traffic in the center lane of Louisburg Road prevented him from moving into that lane before the crash.

Jordan was thrown more than 50 feet after the crash, according to the police report. The truck was traveling well below the speed limit – 35 mph in a 50-mph zone – the report states.

"From a hobby standpoint, he died doing what he loved. He loved cycling," said Tad Clodfelter, president and chief executive of Southlight, which works with alcohol and drug addicts.

Jordan had been the director of the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services since 2010.

Steve Jordan Providers mourn death of NC mental health services chief

He previously served as the state director of ResCare-North Carolina, where he managed programs for people with disabilities, and he worked with the North Carolina MENTOR program, which provides behavioral health services for at-risk youth.

“Steve’s extensive background in community-based care for individuals with developmental disabilities made him an excellent leader for our transition to a new model for behavioral health care in North Carolina,” Al Delia, acting secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “He had a passion for his work and for the people we serve, and he will be sorely missed.”

Mental health and substance abuse service providers also mourned Jordan's loss.

"It's just truly devastating. Steve was doing wonderful things at the state level, but even more importantly than that, he was just a tremendous individual," Clodfelter said. "You might not have always agreed with Steve – with good leaders, everybody doesn't always agree – but you never failed to like him."

"When he made a decision, he made it as he thought was in the best interest of people served by the system, not the system itself. That's a unique skill," said Dave Richard, executive director of The Arc of North Carolina, which serves people with developmental disabilities.

"Steve was a close personal friend, and certainly, most of our relationship centered around the mental health industry. Yet, we all admired him as a person, father, husband (and) industry leader. He was quick with his wit, yet was a true professional in every sense," Gene Rodgers, director of strategic development for Family Preservation Services of North Carolina, said in a statement.

"Those of us who knew him well enjoyed being around him and were privileged to engage with him in work that is important to the people of North Carolina," consultant Peyton Maynard said in a statement. "Steve spent his career helping people, counseling those who were facing difficulties, caring for those who could not care for themselves. He was a leader in business and government. He wanted to make this state a better place and did so by deep commitment to his work and exemplary leadership."

406 Comments

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  • iwannareply Jul 13, 3:21 p.m.

    I don't know how relatively safe I would feel on a bike in Raleigh on 401............. or Interstate 40, or the Beltline. How much different is 401 from these other highways? It is still not right to run over bikers.

  • greg69innc Jul 11, 5:01 p.m.

    Professionally this incident should never had happened. The truck was empty, there were three lanes of traffic going in that direction, and it was close to an intersection. So the truck should have been going slow enough to slow for the bicycle utilize its turn signal and wait for a vehicle to either let him in to make the pass, or wait until traffiic was clear enough to safely pass. This drive ran down the bicyle and was negligent in operating his vehicle. Sorry but that is the way it is I finally got to look at the scene and it is a mystery to me as why this happened.

  • jmdean4104 Jul 9, 1:44 p.m.

    "A lot of people ride bicycles because they care about the environment and see no reason to drag their posteriors around in some huge truckee thing."
    Now this is a good one, has anyone ever stopped to actually think about this statement? I have and it makes me laugh each time I hear it used as an excuse to justify riding a bike on the road. How is it helping the environment by backing up 2-3 miles worth of traffic behind you? It's just that many more cars on the road that much longer and burning up that much more gas when they can finally get around you. That's alot of extra time alot of cars are on the road for you to ride your bike. It would be less harmful for the environment for you to drive any car and not keep all the traffic backed up everyday, seriously. Bet there's not been a study done on that stat!

  • Voice of Reason 23 Jul 6, 6:23 p.m.

    "Let's see how some of these views change the next time one of the bicycle lovers encounters one in front of them on a blind corner or in the middle of the road in a 50 mph zone. It always easy to make judgements things you have not encountered until it happens to you." If we are driving appropriately, then we'll have slowed down before entering the corner and have plenty of time to stop our vehicle.

  • yankee1 Jul 6, 5:25 p.m.

    Let's see how some of these views change the next time one of the bicycle lovers encounters one in front of them on a blind corner or in the middle of the road in a 50 mph zone. It always easy to make judgements things you have not encountered until it happens to you.

  • westernwake1 Jul 6, 5:23 p.m.

    "Your continuous "expect jailtime" comment is way off."

    'OK expect court time and court fees. How about that' - godnessgracious2

    I can agree with that. Now I will probably have to wait for the devil's home below to freeze over before we see court time and court fees for bicyclists who regularly & deliberately disobey traffic laws including the one who ran over my son getting on the stopped school bus.

  • westernwake1 Jul 6, 5:14 p.m.

    "If the truck driver was "was going to fast for the conditions" then he also would have been ticketed for "operating a vehicle at a speed greater than was reasonable and prudent under the conditions". The trucker driver was not ticketed for this, therefore he was NOT "going to fast for the conditions"."

    'He ran over another human being on a bike - vivid evidence to the contrary.' - independent_thinker

    The truck driver was charged with "failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision". This is a very different charge than "operating a vehicle at a speed greater than was reasonable and prudent under the conditions". In the eyes of the law Mr. Ellis was properly operating his truck at a speed which was safe and appropriate for the conditions. He failed to reduce speed when he encountered a bicyclist which resulted in the collision.

  • independent_thinker Jul 6, 5:10 p.m.

    From the North Carolina DOT Drivers Handbook.

    "Pass with Care
    A bicyclist staying to the right in their lane is accommodating following drivers by making it easier to see when it is safe to pass, and easier to execute the pass. Drivers wishing to pass a bicyclist may do so only when there is abundant clearance and no oncoming traffic is in the opposing lane. When passing a bicyclist, always remember the bicyclist is entitled to use of the full lane."

    Many posters appear completely ignorant of the law in support of their own twisted opinion of the rules of the road.

    There is no excuse for not following the rules of the road every single time you get behind the wheel. If you want to change these laws, register as a lobbyist and plead your case to the legislature. In the meantime, grow up, leave early for your destination, slow down, and respect the lives of others when you're behind the wheel. If you can't, get a bus pass.

  • piene2 Jul 6, 5:09 p.m.

    "Well if you don't want to ride on the sidewalk then ride at the park.
    rk1115"

    Yes, that would work very well indeed provided ones home, job, stores and friends were all in the park. A lot of people ride bicycles because they care about the environment and see no reason to drag their posteriors around in some huge truckee thing.

  • godnessgracious2 Jul 6, 5:09 p.m.

    Your continuous "expect jailtime" comment is way off.

    OK expect court time and court fees. How about that.

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