Traffic flagger dies after being hit by truck

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starqh.com

   A Hampton woman is dead after being struck by a truck while she was working as a traffic flagger on the Highway 91 construction project, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
   A THP dispatcher confirmed Wednesday night that Rachel Clawson, 20, 168 Mike Clawson Road, Hampton, had been killed after being struck by a Dodge pick-up truck shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday.
   According to the THP accident report, Clawson was standing on the northbound shoulder of the highway when a truck driven by Michael Burrow, 24, 168 Jason Trail Road, traveling northbound on Highway 91, swerved onto the shoulder and struck her.
   Clawson was airlifted to the Johnson City Medical Center by Wings where she later died, according to the THP report.
   The Highway Patrol's accident reconstruction team had arrived at the scene Wednesday evening to assist in the investigation into the incident.
   Clawson was working as a flagger for Summers-Taylor, which is completing the $11 million highway construction project.
   "She was working for us on this project," said Wayne Buchanan, project manager of the highway project for Summers-Taylor.
   An emotional Buchanan said Clawson was working for Summers-Taylor during her summer break from college.
   He said the driving habits of motorists coming through the construction zone frequently created safety hazards for traffic flaggers and workers.
   "It is a danger every day. These people come through here and don't pay attention," said Buchanan. "You try to build people a better road and they don't even appreciate it."
   Fellow flagger Terri Davis said the two women were ending their workday when the accident occurred.
   "I was right beside her," said Davis. "She had just taken her vest off."
   She said flaggers often faced the ire of motorists from obscene words and gestures to dodging vehicles that veered close to them.
   "They fly up and down through here," said Davis, who added that she had nearly been hit by vehicles while on the job. "Everybody who goes down through here go through here fast."
   Clawson was a 2000 graduate of Hampton High School where she played on the girls' basketball team.
   An investigation into the accident is ongoing, and charges are pending, according to the THP.