QUESTION: Was Mebane’s new police chief, Mitch McKinney, involved in a car crash while driving a city-owned SUV along I-85 on September 6? Why was he in that area?
ANSWER: Yes, according to an accident report filed the same date by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol (NCSHP), which only identified the vehicle that McKinney was driving at the time as a 2015 Chevrolet four-door vehicle owned by the Mebane police department.
The crash occurred just over the Orange County line, on I-85 but near the I-40 split and mile markers 163/164, at 7:52 on Wednesday morning, September 6, according to the highway patrol’s crash report. Neither driver was injured, based on the report.
Both drivers were traveling in a northbound direction when McKinney collided with a 2003 Mercury station wagon driven by Jovani Hernandez Jijon of 1752 Dixon Swimming Pool Road, Lot 49, in Burlington, according to the highway patrol’s subsequent crash report. (McKinney’s address was listed as Mebane city hall, 108 East Washington Street.)
Rodriguez, the driver of the Mercury, was stopped due to traffic, and McKinney “failed to reduce speed due to sunlight inhibiting his view,” according to a narrative included on the NCSHP crash report.
The state trooper who responded to the crash estimated that, as the two vehicles collided, there were four points of impact between the vehicle driven by McKinney and that driven by Rodriguez.
The collision was estimated to have caused $10,000 in damage to the vehicle McKinney was driving, and $4,000 to the station wagon that Rodriguez was driving, according to the NCSHP. The 2015 Chevrolet was not able to be driven from the site of the crash, while the Mercury was listed as drivable.
Neither speed nor drugs or alcohol was suspected as a factor in the crash, according to the highway patrol.
Documents on file in the North Carolina courts system give no indication that McKinney received a citation for failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision.
Meanwhile, Hernandez, 34, Hispanic male, was cited for driving without a license. He is currently scheduled to appear in Orange County district court on November 8, according to his court file.
The newspaper attempted Monday afternoon to speak with McKinney, who said he was in a meeting at the time but would discuss the matter later but had not returned the call by press time on Wednesday.
For his part, Mebane city manager Chris Rollins acknowledged that the $10,000 in damage to the city’s vehicle resulted in it being a total loss. He said the chief is now driving another city vehicle.
As to where McKinney was headed on that Wednesday morning, Rollins said his understanding was that he was going to a meeting – perhaps in Durham or Raleigh. He encouraged the newspaper to get in touch with McKinney directly, but as noted above, McKinney did not respond to the newspaper’s request for comment or explanation.
Rollins also said that McKinney had received no form of disciplinary action for the wreck.
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