EDGECOMBE COUNTY - A Tarboro police officer killed in a wreck involving an NCDOT excavator was laid to rest Friday.
The visitation and funeral for Officer Charles Bryce Johnson took place Friday afternoon at Edgecombe Community College's Keihin Auditorium. The burial immediately followed at Edgecombe Memorial Park.
Johnson was killed Tuesday morning after an NCDOT excavator crossed the center line on N.C. 111, near Sara Lee Road just outside Tarboro, and hit Johnson's van in the driver side windshield, the Highway Patrol said. Johnson's van and the excavator both came to rest in a ditch.
Johnson, 47, died at the scene, said investigators. He was off duty at the time.
Some of Johnson's fellow officers responded to the scene. None of them knew who the victim was until they arrived.
"It was sobering. It hurt. A lot of different feelings, emotions were running," said Sgt. Al Braxton. Braxton was on the force all 24 years of Johnson's career. "Once it finally got out, everybody came together and showed what kind of family we really are. That we're here for each other."
The driver of the excavator, William Allen Harrell II, 29, of Macclesfield, was not injured, troopers said. Harrell has been charged with left of center and misdemeanor death by a motor vehicle. He was given a $2,500 unsecured bond and his next court date is scheduled for July 31, according to investigators.
Johnson is survived by his wife, two young sons and mother. A benevolent fund has been set up at Providence Bank at 325 Main St. in Tarboro. All donations will go to Johnson's family, according to police.
"Charles was about family values, and doing the same thing every day. And doing it the right way," said Braxton. "Do the things that you do and do 'em right. And you'll be blessed."
The Highway Patrol said charges have been filed against an NCDOT worker who crashed his excavator into a van, killing an off-duty Tarboro police officer.
That NCDOT worker, William Allen Harrell II, 29, of Macclesfield, has been charged with left of center and misdemeanor death by a motor vehicle, troopers said Thursday. Harrell was given a $2,500 unsecured bond. His next court date is scheduled for July 31.
According to the Tarboro Police Department, Officer Charles Bryce Johnson, 46, was killed in the wreck on N.C. 111 near Sara Lee Road just outside Tarboro. It happened at about 8:49 a.m. Tuesday.
Troopers told NewsChannel 12 Johnson was driving his Honda Odyssey west on N.C. 111. Meanwhile, an NCDOT excavator, driven by Harrell, was traveling east, troopers said.
But Harrell's excavator then crossed the center line and hit Johnson's van in the driver side windshield, troopers said. Johnson's van and the excavator both came to rest in a ditch.
Johnson died at the scene, said investigators.
"It wasn't until we got to the scene that we ascertained that it was one of our officers," said Tarboro Police Chief Damon Williams. "Of course, there was a sense of shock. Our officers were in a sense of shock. It was hard to take in."
Trooper said Harrell was not injured.
Chief Williams said the Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office has stepped in to patrol the Tarboro area while Johnson's fellow officers grieve.
"We have a long week ahead of us. This is just the beginning. We're going to be with him the entire time. Wherever our brother moves, we're gonna move with him," said Williams.
A benevolent fund has been set up at Providence Bank at 325 Main St. in Tarboro. All donations will go to Johnson's family, according to police.
"Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with Charles' wife Tracy, his young sons Travis and Dustin, and his mother, Charlotte Armstrong," Tarboro Police said in a statement.
The NCDOT will also conduct its own investigation as standard procedure. This includes thoroughly inspecting the truck involved, and reviewing safety procedures statewide, the NCDOT stated.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the driver who died in this tragic accident and with our employee who was involved," said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. "Safety is always the number one 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."
Harrell will also go through required medical screening, stated the NCDOT. His excavator had just left a maintenance yard when the wreck happened.