A construction superintendent was killed while working overnight on a highway widening project in North Carolina after an allegedly drunk and unlicensed driver crashed an SUV into the work zone, the N.C. State Highway Patrol said May 4.
The superintendent, identified as C.J. Bryant, 33, was a six-year employee for S.T. Wooten in Wilson, N.C., a private company contracted by the North Carolina Dept. of Transportation (NCDOT) to widen 13 miles of Interstate-40, a $360-million project.
In a Facebook post, S.T. Wooten says a driver entered the company's lane closure about 3:20 a.m. and struck Bryant, but no one else was injured.
Bryant was part of a crew working on a widening project extends from I-440 (Exit 301) in Raleigh, Wake County, to Cornwallis Road (mile marker 314) in Clayton, Johnston County. The project includes adding two lanes in either direction down the center or to the side of the highway, depending on location.
The crash that killed Bryant, the father of four children who was engaged to be married, happened near Exit 303 for Jones Sausage Road, according to the state Highway Patrol.
The SUV driver, Jeyson Alexander Murcia-Guillen, 20, of Smithfield, ran away following the crash in Wake County, but was arrested in the woods off I-40, police said.
He remained jailed Thursday on a $1-million bail, charged with felony death by vehicle, felony hit-and-run, failure to move over resulting in death, driving after consuming (alcohol), no operator's license, careless and reckless driving to endanger, resisting, delaying, and/or obstructing a public officer, fictitious registration, operating a vehicle with no liability insurance and failure to maintain lane control.
According to data from NCDOT, 171 people have been killed in North Carolina work zones since 2019.
“These deaths are tragic for all involved and could have been prevented,” said Mark Ezzell, director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, in an email. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the worker involved in the incident yesterday morning within our I-40 work zone.”
In 2019, there were 7,029 work zone crashes statewide. In Wake County alone in 2021, NCDOT reported 1,376 work zone crashes – the highest of all the counties in the state.
Construction on the widening project where Bryant was killed started in fall 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in late 2024.
The project includes diverging diamond interchanges that will be added to the Jones Sausage Road (Exit 303) and N.C. 42 (Exit 312) interchanges, according to NCDOT.
“C.J. was a hardworking leader at S.T. Wooten for the last six years," S.T. Wooten's Facebook post says. "Starting as a foreman, he worked on several big jobs, including I-795, US 70, and another section of I-40 in Sampson County. He quickly became known for keeping his jobs ahead of schedule and always working to improve. He was promoted to superintendent in 2021, where he began overseeing multiple jobs. He was responsible for the big picture but still loved working on the jobsite with the crews and his fellow employees."
A GoFundMe for Bryant’s children has been set up by a fellow employee and had collected more than $61,000 of a $100,000 goal as of May 4.