JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – The death of a woman, who was hit and killed by a Johnson City trash truck back in February, was recorded by a roadside traffic camera.
On Feb. 6, Julie Harper, 54, of Johnson City, was hit by the truck on the southbound side of North Roan Street near the intersection of Browns Mill Road. She later died at a local hospital where she was taken for treatment.
Harper’s son has sued the City of Johnson City for damages claiming negligence.
A Redflex traffic enforcement camera along North Roan Street recorded the moment when the truck hit Harper. The City denied a request by News Channel 11 to see the video, but Harper’s family got a copy of the video after a request from their attorney Don Spurrell.
With the family’s permission, Spurrell showed the video to News Channel 11 to prove what they said is a clear case of negligence.
“What we see on it is fairly alarming,” Spurrell said. “What I’m seeing is a truck with its arms down – it’s a dumpster truck – come through the green light, turn right (from Browns Mill Road onto N. Roan Street) and make a sweeping turn into the second lane and proceed almost all the way down a full block to the next lighted intersection where it comes to a stop.”
The moment when Harper was hit isn’t visible on the blurry and pixilated video because it’s blocked from the camera’s angle by the truck itself.
“Next, you see another motorist come through driving in the same direction and come to a stop at what turns out to be the victim.”
On the tape, Harper’s body appears as a horizontal blurry line in the middle of the street.
“She had the right of way,” Spurrell said. “All pedestrians have the right of way in a cross walk.”
The lawsuit claims negligence by the City of Johnson City and the driver of the trash truck, who has not been charged with any crime and has returned to driving a trash truck since the time of the accident.
“He certainly didn’t have any intent to do what he did, but the truck clearly caused the death of this woman who was in a crosswalk and a pedestrian,” Spurrell said.
In its legal response, the City of Johnson City denies wrongdoing and goes even further placing blame on Harper by saying she “was intoxicated at the time…which resulted in her failure to….look out for her own safety and that as a result, her injuries were a result of her own negligence….”
The Harper family said that isn’t true and points to a just released autopsy report that showed alcohol was not present in Harper’s blood at the time of her death.
The attorney for the city would not be interviewed on camera for this report and didn’t respond to questions about the basis for the allegation Harper was intoxicated when she died.
The Harper’s attorney said he sees another problem – a busy intersection with no pedestrian signage.
“I think it does reflect an insensitivity to some extent on the part of the city,” Spurrell said.
The City of Johnson City’s legal response to the lawsuit includes a denial of wrongdoing for that as well.
In its legal response to the lawsuit, Johnson City said TDOT designed the intersection, and the City played no part in the decision to put a crosswalk where Harper was hit.
The City said it puts pedestrian signage where there’s heavy pedestrian movement, inferring that this intersection doesn’t meet the city engineers criteria.
‘If you didn’t mean for people to cross across Roan Street, don’t put a crosswalk there,” Spurrell said. “And if you put a cross walk at one of the busiest intersections in Johnson City, the least you need to do is put some kind of pedestrian traffic controls there.”
The Tennessee Highway Patrol is still investigating the crash.
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