No leads in pedestrian death

By John Peters -

A week after a local man was run over and killed by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 77, authorities appear no closer to learning who the truck driver was.

While law enforcement wants to identify the driver, at least one officer acknowledged that’s going to be a tall order.

And, he said, the driver may not have committed a crime.

Christopher Michael Hall, 44, of Old Highway 601, Mount Airy, was killed on Aug. 18 when a tractor-trailer ran over him on I-77, under the Prison Camp Road overpass.

Surry County Emergency Services Director and County Medical Examiner John Shelton said Hall had fallen to the highway from the overpass, but it was being run over by the truck that proved fatal.

“There were some vehicles who had swerved to miss, then the one tractor-trailer did hit him,” Shelton said the day of the incident, citing the account of a witness. “The witness said the tractor-trailer unit did stop, then went on. We think he did know he ran over something,” but Shelton didn’t know if the driver was aware it was a person.

Thursday, Trooper Robert Boyes said further investigation has cast some doubt on that latter part of the witness’ recollection of the incident.

“That’s possible, it’s possible that happened, but in speaking with the investigator, we’re not even sure at that point if that person had stopped,” the trooper said of the unknown tractor trailer driver.

“It’s unclear … we can’t say the person driving the truck was even aware…certainly they are aware they struck, or ran over, something, but we have no way of knowing if they knew a person was lying in the road. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for trucks driving down the highway, particularly at night, to run over things without stopping.”

The incident occurred around 4:30 a.m., when conditions were still dark.

Saying there are no leads since the initial witness account, Boyes said it will be difficult now to find the driver.

“Based on the nature of the incident, as it took place, it is highly unlikely there will be any evidence of it on the tractor trailer. I’m not saying impossible, but … to the naked eye, or without looking for it on a specific vehicle, (finding evidence) would be very difficult to do.”

Then again, even if they did find the truck, there’s no guarantee there would be any charges against the driver.

“We’re not alleging the person did anything wrong,” Boyes said. “We would like to know the vehicle that ran over Mr. Hall. We don’t have any suggestion he (the driver) did anything wrong. It was obviously accidental that he ran over a body lying in the roadway. There certainly doesn’t appear there was any violation of law by the incident, by the collision itself.”

He said if the driver knew he had run over a person then fled the scene, there would be criminal charges, but if he didn’t know, there would likely be no law infraction found to have taken place.

Boyles also said he can’t definitively say how Hall came to be on the interstate, other than he fell from the overpass.

“We can definitively say and without question, he went over the bridge rail.” However, the patrolman said his department cannot say if Hall jumped or fell accidentally. “Law enforcement, or EMS, have neither the authority nor the duty to classify death,” he said, meaning they can’t ascribe intent to Hall. “That rests with the chief medical examiner. We can only say for sure, he was on the bridge and he went over the rail.”

By John Peters

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