Flagger, 23, Killed in N.C. Work Zone Crash, Another Injured

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Updated Aug 1, 2023
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A flagger was killed and another injured when a driver failed to follow directions in a work zone on an N.C. highway.
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A 23-year-old flagger was struck and killed by a driver and another flagger was injured in a North Carolina highway work zone near Charlotte.

The two flaggers were on N.C. 150 moving traffic cones at about 3:30 p.m. June 26 when the driver of a 2019 Chevy Equinox hit them, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol.

The flagger who was killed was identified as 23-year-old Ryan Scott Tanner of Valdese. Another flagger was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Troopers said the work zone was marked with cones to alert drivers. Another flagger holding a stop sign motioning drivers into the lane away from the flaggers moving the cones was almost struck. The driver of the Equinox failed to follow the rest of the traffic that was being diverted into another lane. He was identified as an 80-year-old man and was not injured. Alcohol was not a factor, the patrol said.

Jerry Lee Johnson of Sherills Ford, N.C., is charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and without decreasing speed to avoid colliding with a person.

Tanner was the lead flagger on the project and was working for his mother’s company, Quality Traffic Safety, according to his obituary. “Ryan died as he lived, safeguarding and shielding others.”

Tanner is the second road worker to die in a work zone in North Carolina this year. On May 3, an asphalt superintendent was struck by an SUV that intruded into a work zone on I-40 in Garner. The SUV entered the zone, which was designated by orange barrels, struck equipment and hit C.J. Bryant, 33, who was working on the project for contractor S.T. Wooten.

After the crash, the driver of the SUV, identified by police as 20-year-old Jeyson Alexander Murcia-Guillen of Smithfield, ran from the scene. He was later arrested on charges of felony death by vehicle, felony hit-and-run, driving after consuming, no operator's license, resisting an officer, fictitious registration and operating a vehicle with no liability insurance, among other charges.

Bryant leaves behind four children and his fiancée of 16 years. According to S.T. Wooten, which is based in Wilson, N.C., Bryant had worked for the company for six years, starting as a foreman. He worked on several large projects in the state, including I-795, U.S. 70 and another section of I-40 in Sampson County.

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“He quickly became known for keeping his jobs ahead of schedule and always working to improve,” says a company post on Facebook.

In March, six highway workers were killed in Maryland near Baltimore on I-695 when a speeding driver crashed into their work zone.