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Police: Johnson City driver who killed pedestrian was legally blind

Rex Barber • Jul 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM

JOHNSON CITY - A Johnson City man involved in a May traffic accident that killed a woman has been charged with several serious offenses following an investigation into the wreck and the man's ability to clearly see, police said.

Thomas E. Campbell, 56, 95 Woodland Road, was charged Saturday afternoon with vehicular homicide in the May 26 traffic accident that killed 62-year-old Brenda J. Cook.

Johnson City police said that about 2 p.m. on May 26, Cook was crossing West Main Street near the intersection with West Watauga Avenue. She was going to her apartment when she was struck by Campbell, who was driving a 1988 Chevrolet pickup truck.

Cook was taken to Johnson City Medical Center, where she died during surgery.

Campbell reportedly told police at the time that he saw Cook as she stepped out from in front of another vehicle and into his path.

The completed investigation into the crash revealed there were no visual obstructions that would delay or prevent Campbell from seeing Cook crossing the street and taking proper evasive action to avoid hitting her, police said.

Police also discovered that Campbell had been declared statutorily blind from retinal macular degeneration disease on April 2, 1977.

Campbell had also reportedly been receiving Social Security benefits because of his condition since May 1981.

Police said Campbell's disease explains why no evasive action was taken until after Cook was hit, and that by operating a motor vehicle while legally blind, Campbell was engaging in reckless conduct that resulted in the death of another.

Police also reportedly saw Campbell driving around on May 27, 28 and 29. He was therefore charged with three counts of felony reckless endangerment along with vehicular homicide.

Campbell was being held Saturday in the Washington County Detention Center on $107,500 bond. His arraignment is scheduled for Monday morning in sessions court.

May's incident was not the first time Campbell had been involved in a fatal accident involving a pedestrian. According to reports, Campbell was driving a 1978 Ford pickup truck when he struck 89-year-old Robert H. Morris as he was crossing the street in front of his residence in the Pinecrest community of Carter County in September 2004.

Campbell told Carter County authorities Morris walked in front of him and he was unable to avoid striking him. Morris reportedly was hearing impaired, which officers believed may have been a contributing factor.

Authorities called the incident an "unavoidable accident," and no charges were placed.

NET News Service staff writer Kristen Swing contributed to this report.

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