Worker in crash remains on job

Logistics officer was not on duty at time

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An Aiken County employee involved in a serious wreck while off work faces no penalties unless an arrest is made, officials say.

Matthew Burke  Special
Special
Matthew Burke

Daniel Johnson, a logistics officer, remains on the job after a wreck Oct. 1 that left a bicyclist in a coma. He was driving his Dodge Durango and was not working or on call at the time. An investigation by the South Carolina Highway Patrol into the incident on Beech Island Avenue is pending.

Johnson's job has some responsibilities that involve operating county vehicles, but the investigation has no direct bearing on his work status with the county, Todd Glover, the assistant county administrator, said in an e-mail.

Given a similar scenario, the same holds true in Richmond and Columbia counties, human resources officials there said.

"As far as we are concerned, the law says nothing wrong has been done," said Ron Clark, of employee relations in Richmond County.

If an arrest is made, either a felony or certain misdemeanors, employees are obligated to notify their supervisors, according to Clark. An immediate suspension follows, during which the county conducts an investigation to determine employment status.

Marcia Lowry, the human resources manager for Columbia County, said that incidents involving a wreck would be taken on a "case by case" basis but that generally no action would be taken until the outcome of the investigation was made public.

"There are a number of different variables before we could make a final decision," Lowry said.

The wreck in which Johnson was involved happened just before 7 p.m. as a group of bicyclists pedaled on Beech Island Avenue. Dr. Matthew Burke, a surgeon at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, and four other cyclists were injured when Johnson ran into them, according to the highway patrol.

Johnson said he was distracted and didn't see them until the last second, according to investigators.

Johnson was hired by Aiken County in 2003 and has held emergency services-related jobs, including work as an EMT.

A spokesman for the highway patrol said last week that the accident reconstruction team is still piecing together what happened.

Wreck update

Dr. Matthew Burke, a surgeon at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center, and four other cyclists were injured when they were struck on Beech Island Avenue on Oct. 1, according to the highway patrol.

A spokesman for the highway patrol says the accident reconstruction team is still investigating.

Burke remains in critical condition at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, according to his family.

Comments (22) Add comment
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agustinian
689
Points
agustinian 11/15/10 - 08:27 am
0
0
To SLED and Mr. Thurmond: We

To SLED and Mr. Thurmond:
We are watching this case closely and will not forget it. The evidence isn't getting any better. If there is probable cause to charge the driver for reckless driving [§ 56-5-2920.] then charge the driver, a jury can sort through the evidence. If the jury decides the evidence is insufficient, then the system will let the driver go.
Don't treat this accident like you treated Bill Adams death last year, where the driver (who admitted to speeding) was never charged!

corgimom
32266
Points
corgimom 11/15/10 - 08:46 am
0
0
How nice to know that in

How nice to know that in Aiken County, citizens- and especially citizens of another state- get to decide who should be charged with crimes, unlike other municipalities in the US.

And how nice to know that citizens THINK that they are privy to all the evidence in an investigation.

nadps53jrt
0
Points
nadps53jrt 11/15/10 - 08:49 am
0
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As a retired Public Safety

As a retired Public Safety Officer, I can't say yes or no on any charges due to that I don't have the facts. However, I have seen how these bicyclist do try to own the road. In Edgefield County as I was coming home on a country road that goes from Martintown Rd to Hwy. 28 which is a very hilly curvy road, I saw a man and woman on bikes in a bad curve. The man was almost to the center line of the road riding beside the woman talking to her.
These people do not own the roads. Yes we all need to be careful but I don't feel the laws should give them the right of ways until they start paying taxes on those bikes and get insurance on them.

justus4
101
Points
justus4 11/15/10 - 10:28 am
0
0
Look at all the hand wringing
Unpublished

Look at all the hand wringing and so-called "ambiguity" about the so-called "laws" when the sole tacit purpose is to keep this guy from being held accountable. Watch for statements like "the laws says nothing wrong was done. " or the most infamous "...a number of different variables before we maker a final decision." are classic examples of biased judgement, EXCEPT when U know who is involved. In those cases, the statements are extremely clear: "We can't have employees who exercise poor judgement employed here." or " His acts reflect terribly on our agency and its leadership and reckless behavior won't be tolerated under my watch." Why the difference? Yep, U guessed it; Cognitive Dissidence. Again, nothing new here...

GetOffJohnsonFree
0
Points
GetOffJohnsonFree 11/16/10 - 12:04 pm
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Scott Free?

Scott Free?

JustinCase
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JustinCase 11/16/10 - 11:44 am
0
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It is amazing what some

It is amazing what some people are willing to say on the internet due to anonymity. This may well have been an accident by a distracted driver, or it may be a criminal act by a person driving under the influence. All that said, there is no way for us to know unless a police report spells it out, the driver is charged and convicted. If every person cited for driving while distracted, breaking the speed limit, failure to yield, or any other type of careless driving lost their jobs over it, our economy would be in an even bigger mess. If he was not arrested or charged with a crime, and the company fired him and there were no charges in the future, the driver could sue and would win a boat load of money that would be paid by the tax payers of the great State of South Carolina. It is shockingly sad how ignorant and uninformed some of the "bloggers" are on topics such as this. I am no attorney, but that would be an open and shut case that could easily be won by any of the hack attorneys that blabber all over the local TV stations in this neck of the woods.

While I believe (no evidence on hand) that the driver should be charged with something, we cannot rush to judgment on this and have even more victims from this tragedy. Hopefully, Dr. Burke will recover and lead a productive and happy life with no long term or life long disabilities. Hopefully, he and his family will not suffer more than they already have. Hopefully, his injuries will be healed and he will be able to testify about the miracles of his recovery. Hopefully, the driver will learn from this humongous and monumental error whether ir be that he was texting, talking on the phone, speeding or worse. It would be criminal if the many lessons from this horrific event were just a footnote in history and no one learned from this and changed their behavior because of it. Put down your phone, Blackberry, IPhone, Droid or other communication device. Do not drive under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Obey the speed limit. Look out for others and hopefully they will return the kindness. Drive and ride defensively, not offensively. Show respect for others and others will show respect for you.

To those of you who continue to blame the victims for riding their bicycles on the highway, please do not continually demonstrate your ignorance for all the world to see. The education reputation for the State is an absolute joke (50th out of 50) as is. Why bring further ridicule upon the citizens of the State? Would it be out of the question to ask you to simply refrain from making such ignorant statements on the Internet? My guess is that it is, but I will continue to hope....

Safe4all
0
Points
Safe4all 11/16/10 - 05:28 pm
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I agree 53jrt you don't have

I agree 53jrt you don't have the facts and "they" don't own public roads. Drivers of vehicles also don't own the roads (even in their neighborhoods). I'm glad you did not plow your vehicle into the couple cycling on a curvy road. How much more incomprehensible it is to know that on Oct. 1 a driver of a mid sized suv drove into a group of cyclists on a straight two lane road with a posted 35mph speed limit on a clear day with the sun at his back. How could one manage such a feat? In your professional opinion doesn't that seem to be somewhat unsafe behavior? As claimed in a comment above, SC may be last in education, but the state does have laws and they need to be enforced.

kristish
0
Points
kristish 11/16/10 - 09:02 pm
0
0
nadps53jrt, ... your anger

nadps53jrt, ... your anger about bike riders indicates you think YOU own the road.

Apparently you feel you bought a share in it with your vehicle tax and insurance. Bikers do pay other taxes that contribute to the roads. They are certainly paying for the mistakes of the driver that hit them as well.

On the taxes issue, you have things backwards...

Bike paths are cheaper than roads and bikers pay taxes too. Taxes that finance "your" roads.

Eliminating bikes from the roads altogether would minimally effect the costs of our roads and certainly would effect your taxes in any relevant manner. Have equivalent biker paths to the roads would probably cost a lot.

Eliminating roads and having just bike paths on the other hands would greatly reduce the tax burden on the bike riders. :-O

If you made a system where car drivers financed the roads and bike riders financed the bike paths, the bike riders would benefit from the deal and you would lose. You have gained by taking their tax money, not using it for separate bike paths and instead applying it toward roads for cars that are to be shared with the bikers... at a cost savings to you... but you're not willing to share now are you ????

Cars should yield to bikers and pedestrians. They're bigger. Duh.

Greg Burlingame
0
Points
Greg Burlingame 11/16/10 - 09:04 pm
0
0
Nice comments, Airbud7 and

Nice comments, Airbud7 and GetOffJohnsonFree, although I'm having a hard time understanding, must be 'my mentality'. Please expound if you can. nadps53jrt, pardon me but bicyclists are supposed to ride near the center line so as the upcoming vehicles can see them and no side swipe them or, "Heaven forbid, I really wish they would have ", ram the cyclists from behind. As a Public Safety Officer, you should know these things. By the way, who says cyclists don't pay taxes or have insurance.
Point is pedestrians and cyclists have the right of way, if not you have many, many more people ending up like my nephew. Ask the Canadians and Europeans how it is, we need to be more like them, especially "Going Green" and all.

lcosentino
0
Points
lcosentino 11/18/10 - 01:34 am
0
0
Dear Mr. 53jrt, as someone

Dear Mr. 53jrt, as someone whose job it was to protect the public (something you have in common with the cyclist discussed in this article, as he has served in the military), I ask, would you make the same statements you have posted in this article in the following setting: Please picture yourself sitting with my cousin, Dr. Burke's wife, and mother of his 8 mo old daughter, at Dr. Burke's bedside. Would you say directly to her the things you have posted in this comment section? In the least, your question concerning whether cyclist, surgeon, and US Army Major Dr. Burke, who served our country in Iraq, pays taxes or has insurance on his bike would need to be directed to his wife; as Dr. Burke is not in a condition where he is able to answer for himself at this time. You did admit you had not all the facts, here is one to consider; according to the SCHP in the previous article, dated 11/7, entitled, "Questions linger in collision that has Army Physician Clinging for His life,” there is no question that the cyclists were riding legally. From the stand point of a former public safety officer, for whose safety are you concerned, when the one who has abided by the law and his family are suffering indescribably at the hands of one who has not followed the law in the act of careless driving?

We plead at this time with the highway patrol and accident investigation team to handle the investigation with utmost human integrity and professionalism, to prevent it from appearing to the rest of the world, (please do not underestimate the attention this story is gaining) that people such as Mr. 53jrt become spokespersons for your area's law enforcement due to insufficient action taken. You have the authority to prevent this from being the case, and can therefore provide some relief to Dr. Burke's family and friends from the additional and unnecessary pain of callous disregard for what they are suffering by those who are distastefully using this tragedy as an opportunity to express their views about cyclists.

cyclingman1
0
Points
cyclingman1 11/19/10 - 06:50 am
0
0
Do you people posting the

Do you people posting the justifications and excuses for running down a
cyclist on a road that could not be better suited for cycling not realize how your comments are interpreted by others?

The first impression is that you have virtually no regard for your fellow man.

Just look at reasons offered that supposedly explain why a cyclist can be hit:

They act like they own the road.
They do not pay some sort of unspecified taxes.
They invite being hit because they are risk takers.
They ride too slowly.
They do not ride next to the edge where they can be more easily sideswiped.

No one is fooled by those excuses.

Why don’t you just admit that irresponsible driving is almost always the cause of a cyclist being hit. It usually involves speeding, doing something in the car other than driving, or, I hate to say, road rage.

It is upsetting when law enforcement officers subscribe to the same views. What happened to their responsibility to protect all of the public?

Safe4all
0
Points
Safe4all 11/19/10 - 10:52 am
0
0
Well said cycleman! For the

Well said cycleman! For the past seven weeks the driver in the crash has gone to work and enjoyed his freedom. My son-in-law,however, has been imprisoned in a body that cannot move with total loss of freedom. The impact of a mindless second of driving is profound. Accountability within the law for such behavior is clearly the duty of those in authority. The Creator of us all will issue the final verdict.

RaeDee8
0
Points
RaeDee8 11/19/10 - 02:13 pm
0
0
Again, I urge the officials

Again, I urge the officials to continue their diligent investigation into this incident. Questions still remain unanswered, and I pray that a reenactment and further investigation will provide evidence and charges will be brought to the reckless driver. One other question, was there oncoming traffic? and if there were no oncoming cars, then why, in the name of humanity did Mr. Johnson not go around? If there were, then what was so important that was worth injury to your fellow human beings?

Iamacyclist
0
Points
Iamacyclist 11/19/10 - 04:40 pm
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0
Per the picture in the

Per the picture in the Chronicle’s last article: I would like to emphasize that the spot marked POI is the beginning of the perfect motorist passing zone on that road for autos going from Atomic Rd toward Pine Log. As one can see in the picture, it is the beginning of a perfect straight away, clear vision for over a mile on a gradual uphill, the perfect place for autos to begin passing the slower cyclists. However, if there is a car (or are cars) coming toward you in the left hand lane, the motorist has to pause for a few seconds to up to minutes to allow the on going cars to come by before passing. This short wait often perturbs the following motorists who have to slow down to pass.

It seems odd that it is at this exact point, the first area on this stretch of road for the perfect pass, that the driver states he became distracted; plus the fact that one of the injured cyclists stated they heard a revving engine, makes this claim of a distraction hard to believe. How does one reeve an engine unknowingly; I wouldn’t know how to do it.

Another question I have is can you reve an engine in drive mode, or does it have to be in neutral? I am not very good with cars, but if one switches from neutral to drive, can someone tell me what would happen at a rate of over 50 mph (per the witness motorist following the driver)? Just curious question that I have.

I have been buzzed at that exact spot up to a dozen times, more or less, for it is the perfect place for a perturbed driver to desire to start his pass. (I have witnesses to verify some of these incidents.)

Many experienced and avid cyclists can tell the difference between an intention intimidation by a motorist, compared to just a careless driver. It becomes an inherent instinct over the many years of riding the rural roads.

I met several orthopedic surgeons and assistants (and friends and co-workers of Dr. Burke) at a business dinner the other night, they mentioned that many of their patients at Eisenhower, who live in Beech Island, have even stated that they, themselves, find it very difficult that the driver didn’t see the cyclist and that they have a hard time believing it was just an accident. Their patients stated they drove that road often and never had any problems with identifying the cyclists ahead of them.

Gpoulter
0
Points
Gpoulter 11/20/10 - 11:01 pm
0
0
What are the chances that the

What are the chances that the officer who responded to the accident knew Daniel Johnson? They are both government employees working in the same county. I worry that the victims have little chance for justice when the driver was not appropriately investigated by someone who was likely an acquaintance or friend. Little evidence was collected at the time of the accident and now it will be difficult to know exactly what happened.

This is all very disappointing. It reeks of privilege and connections.

I am not surprised Johnson remains on the job. He has not been charged with anything.

md80bob
0
Points
md80bob 11/26/10 - 09:39 am
0
0
Regarding the comments from

Regarding the comments from "JustinCase": my occupation does allow the revocation of my federal license, should I break the law. In fact, I am required to allow the FAA the search my driver record just to prove I'm telling the truth, and if not, again I lose my license. Take a moment and think what our country would be like if we all were held to that level of personal responsibility.
Taxes: as a cyclist, I pay taxes on my vehicle, even when it's parked. In other words, we share the cost burden, even when I'm cycling & not doing greater wear & tear on the road.
We're all losers in this: by not making an arrest, law enforcement is declaring open season on law-abiding cyclists, as well as making a travesty of laws already on the books.

Greg Burlingame
0
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Greg Burlingame 11/26/10 - 10:33 am
0
0
Alot of good points there

Alot of good points there justincase, but there is also alot of evidence and testimonies to back them up. I am trusting in God and the authorities to bring this incident to justice. In the mean time there is much suffering and pain going on, let us not forget this most important point.

Beattybugs
426
Points
Beattybugs 12/06/10 - 09:03 am
0
0
It has been over a year since

It has been over a year since Bill Adams was struck and killed by a careless driver who was not charged even though she left the scene of the accident and has a record of several car accidents and speeding tickets. Bill had stepped into the street to place garden clippings on the curb for garbage pickup - - apparently in the state of South Carolina it's OK to hit someone when they step into the street. Ever since this terrible tragedy for the Adams family I make sure I look before stepping into the street to get mail from my mailbox - - knowing that the South Carolina police department will let any careless driver off.
And now Dr. Matthew Burke has been hit by a car as he bicycled - - all evidence shows that the driver was at the very least careless, but even worse, it appears that Mr. Johnson deliberately slammed into these bikers - - and his clearly indifferent response to Dr. Burke as he lay on the street is chilling.
As a resident of South Carolina I am both ashamed and frightened that life here is not protected better.

PWRSPD
0
Points
PWRSPD 12/06/10 - 09:30 am
0
0
I'm not sure about SC, but in

I'm not sure about SC, but in GA if a pedestrian steps in front of a car, it's the pedestrians fault. Of course this does not apply in crosswalks. I've heard of a couple bike/car incidents and don't remember any charges.

AugustaCyclist
0
Points
AugustaCyclist 12/27/10 - 11:54 am
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(sarcasm)I think that all

(sarcasm)I think that all drivers should not be allowed to make left turns. I mean you don't pay a special left turn tax, or have insurance specifically for left turns(/sarcasm)

The reason motor vehicle insurance is required is primarily for OTHER parties' injuries and property damage. The risk to my bicycle hitting your car is very low in comparison. By contrast, your 2-4 ton SUV damages the road a lot more than my bicycle.

If we must pay taxes and get insurance commiserate with the risk/damage done to the road, then so be it.

There are laws preventing bicycles on interstates, and other than that, bikes should be allowed everywhere else even *gasp* riding in the center of the lane.

I DO agree with some of the angst towards cyclists - sometimes bikers get careless with lane position.

I may not like some opinions expressed here, but I support your right to say them.

AugustaCyclist
0
Points
AugustaCyclist 12/27/10 - 11:57 am
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I hope those involved recover

I hope those involved recover from this crash, and this driver is punished. I will leave how much up to those who are legally able to decide. I've been involved in traffic accidents also, and understand mistakes can be just that - but I had to pay for mine.

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