Eyewitness contradicts story of trooper crash

July 21, 2010 4:35:37 PM PDT
An eyewitness has come forward who contradicts the preliminary report on a double fatal accident involving a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper in May.

Sandra Allmond, 55, and 11-year-old Taylor Strange died when Allmond made a left turn into the path of Trooper J.D. Goodnight on Interstate 85 Business Loop in Jamestown on May 23.

According to the Highway Patrol preliminary report, Goodnight was traveling southbound before the crash and clocked a vehicle traveling northbound at 80 mph in a 55 mph zone with his radar system. He activated his blue lights and turned around headed north.

Investigators said Goodnight reached speeds of 120 miles an hour in pursuit of the vehicle as he approached the intersection with River Road, but slowed to 95 before he hit Allmond's car.

Eyewitness Terry Johnson says he saw something different.

That morning, Johnson said he was headed south in the right-hand lane of 85 when he saw a Highway Patrol cruiser parked in a paved turnaround area.

With his speedometer reading 55 miles per hour, Johnson looked in his rear view mirror.

"This trooper leisurely pulled out - into the right hand lane - and began to follow me. I wasn't gaining on him," said Johnson. "He was not gaining on me."

Even as the two came to sign for an upcoming traffic light warning the intersection was 1000 feet away, Johnson said he recalls he was still doing the speed limit.

"All of a sudden, he jumped from behind me and I couldn't believe how fast he got that car going as he went by me," he recalled.

With the windows down, Johnson says he saw the trooper's blue lights but never heard a siren. Seconds later, he says the trooper veered from the left lane to the right to avoid Allmond's car as she turned in front of him but couldn't.

Investigators say Allmond failed to yield the right of way.

"I don't believe she ever saw him," said Johnson.

But Johnson says he saw it all, and it's what he didn't see that's the problem.

"No chase. No pursuit," he said.

And no speeding car.

Johnson is one of three eyewitnesses from that tragic day. He's already told investigators his story and now publicly shares it with ABC11.

"The public can't be lied to in any regard. I have no desire to ruin any trooper's career," he said. "Law enforcement has to be forthcoming and honest with the public."

Johnson says they owe that to Taylor Strange - one of the three kids in the car that day -and to Allmond -a grandmother driving them home from church. She died holding his hand.

"She died with somebody there," said Johnson. "I hope that is some comfort to her family."

There are twin investigations into the crash. One was done by the North Carolina Attorney General's Office in anticipation of potential lawsuits against the state. The AG's report is done, but it says it won't release its findings.

The Highway Patrol said its final report would be done this week, but now it says it's taking a second look.

Meanwhile, the victim's families wait for closure.

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