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Ex-trooper says crash victim’s friend was speeding

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By Damon Lawrence

Former state trooper Samuel Dean Norman has responded to a lawsuit that accuses him of causing a February car crash that resulted in the death of Elmer Solomon.

Solomon’s widow, Sandra J. Solomon, is suing Norman in Roane County Circuit Court for $980,000 in damages.

The fatal crash happened on Hwy. 61 on Feb. 6.

Elmer Solomon was a passenger in a 2008 Nissan driven by his friend Merley E. Tilson.

Solomon was the owner of the Nissan, which was traveling east on Hwy. 61.

Norman, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol report, was turning onto the highway from Little Emory Road at 12:39 p.m. when he pulled into Tilson’s path, causing the collision.

Norman was driving a 2002 Chevy SUV. The report said he failed to yield the right of way.

No criminal charges have been filed in the incident.

The lawsuit accuses Norman of failing to yield, failing to look out for other cars on the highway, driving on the wrong side of the road, failing to maintain control of his vehicle and failing to use reasonable care.

Solomon and Tilson were both from Oakdale in Morgan County.

They were like brothers, according to Solomon’s obituary.

Norman is represented by Knoxville attorney David C. Hollow.

Their answer to the lawsuit blames Tilson for the crash.

“Defendant (Norman) was driving in a generally northbound direction on Little Emory Road approaching its intersection with U.S. Hwy. 61,” the answer states.

“Defendant brought his vehicle to a complete stop in obedience to the stop sign at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 61 and Little Emory Road.”

The answer said Norman attempted to ensure the road was clear by looking to his left and right.

“Even though defendant was able to see some distance up the roadway to his left, he did not see any vehicles within his view or, in his best judgment, any vehicles that were so close to the intersection so as to constitute an immediate hazard,” the answer states.

“Defendant then pulled into the roadway when suddenly the vehicle owned by Elmer Solomon and operated by Merley Tilson collided at a high rate of speed with such force that the Solomon vehicle careened to the left, traveled for a distance and flipped onto its top, totaling both vehicles.”

The posted speed limit on the highway is 55 mph. Norman alleges that Tilson was speeding at the time of the crash.

His answer to the lawsuit also alleges that Tilson “had a superior sight distance.”

“If he had been paying attention to the roadway ahead and driving his vehicle according to the traffic conditions then and there existing, at or below the posted speed limit, he would have been able to have seen the defendant’s vehicle in sufficient time to have either avoided the collision altogether or at least would have been able to slow the vehicle enough to reduce the force of the collision.”

Norman has asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

The crash was investigated by State Trooper Matthew Armes.

Tilson was not cited in the crash, and Armes’ report didn’t mention anything about him speeding.

“All I know is he hit us and killed my friend,” Tilson said about Norman’s accusations.

Tilson directed all other inquiries to his attorney, Mike Ritter of Oak Ridge.

A phone message left for Ritter wasn’t returned by press time Friday.