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Officials say DOT driver crossed center line before fatal crash

By Brie Handgraaf

Staff Writer

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Officials said they believe an N.C. Department of Transportation driver crossed the center line Tuesday morning causing his vehicle to collide with a van being driven by an off-duty Tarboro police officer, who was killed in the crash.

N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper C. Purvis said the incident happened around 9 a.m. on N.C. 111. William Allen Harrell II, 29, was driving a state excavator truck east from a maintenance yard outside of Tarboro when the truck crossed over the center line and collided with an oncoming Honda Odyssey.

“When I got on scene, the van was in the ditch with the D.O.T. vehicle basically attached to it,” Purvis said. “The top of the van had been peeled back.”

The driver of the van, Tarboro Officer Charles Bryce Johnson, was trapped in the vehicle and died before help arrived. Johnson, 46, was off-duty when the wreck occurred and was alone in the vehicle.

Purvis said the investigation into the wreck is ongoing. It does not appear that speed was a factor in the collision that claimed the life of a 24-year veteran officer and father of two.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the driver who died in this tragic accident and with our employee who was involved,” N.C. DOT Secretary Tony Tata said in a prepared statement. “Safety is always the No. 1 priority in everything we do. Our team will work closely with law enforcement to investigate and thoroughly review all of our safety procedures to understand how this happened and what steps we can take to prevent something like this from happening again.”

In lieu of flowers, a trust fund has been setup at Providence Bank, 325 N. Main St. (PO Box 339) Tarboro, NC. All donations will go to Johnson’s wife and children.

“Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with Charles’ wife Tracy, his young sons Travis and Dustin, and his mother Charlotte Armstrong,” Tarboro Police Sgt. Al Braxton said.