Local News

Distracted driving blamed for DOT worker's death

Posted June 2, 2010 10:40 a.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2010 5:57 p.m. EDT

— Distracted driving is to blame for the death of a state Department of Transportation worker killed Wednesday morning when a tractor-trailer crashed into him, authorities said.

Jonathan King, 21, of Autryville, was killed around 7 a.m. as he worked on the shoulder of Interstate 40 at milemarker 364 in Duplin County, the state Highway Patrol said.

Another DOT worker, Bradly Williams, also of Autryville, was injured. He was treated and released from Sampson Memorial Hospital.

Authorities said the tractor-trailer's driver, Ernest Harris, of St. Pauls, had been looking at some shipping papers just before the crash.

"He took his eyes off the road for a minute," Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Will Thurston said. "When he looked back up, he was across the white line headed right for the DOT truck, and there was nothing he could do but hit the truck."

Harris faces charges of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, reckless driving, failing to maintain lane control and failure to reduce speed.

DOT spokeswoman Greer Beatty said King and Williams were preparing for a lane closure for bridge construction in the area.

King had gotten out of his truck to unhook a construction sign from it when the tractor-trailer hit and pinned him.

"Somebody took their eyes off the road just a minute, and a terrible thing happened," Thurston said. "That's how quickly it could happen. So I would just ask people to be careful and drive carefully and responsibly."