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23-Year-Old Avery Man Responsible for Fatal Crash Appeared in Court on Tuesday

By Josiah Clark

The person responsible for a fatal crash in Roan Mountain, Tenn., appeared in court on Tuesday.

The crash resulted from a high-speed chase between deputies with the Avery County Sheriff’s Office and two individuals suspected of driving a stolen vehicle.

The suspects led officers into Carter County, Tenn., before losing control of the vehicle on Highway 19-E and crashing off an embankment in Carter Co., Tenn.

Passenger James Dalton Reese of Newland, who was only 17 and was wearing a seatbelt, died at the scene. Reese’s mother, who noted that Newland Police Chief Jason Brown would corroborate her story, said she didn’t know why her son was in the vehicle and that her son didn’t know the driver, Robert Allen Cook, 23, of Elk Park.

Newland Police Chief Jason Brown is out of the office until Thursday or Friday.

Cook sustained injuries and was taken to the hospital immediately after the crash.

Robert Allen Cook. Source - Carter County Detention Center
Robert Allen Cook.
Source – Carter County Detention Center

The vehicle, a 2006 Honda Pilot, was reported stolen from Avery Tire Pros around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 21, and the incident was filed with the Newland Police Department.

That same evening, an officer from the Avery County Sheriff’s Office sighted the vehicle near the Tennessee state line. When deputies Tim Clawson and Greg Taylor proceeded to try and pull the vehicle over and confirm it was stolen, Reese and Cook attempted to flee into Tennessee, and were quickly pursued by the deputies.

Just before 10 p.m., the pursuing deputies saw the vehicle careen down an embankment off Highway 19-E after Cook lost control and failed to make a curve on Crabtree Road. Officers confirmed that the vehicle was traveling around 55-60 mph right before the collision.

Tennessee Highway Patrol, Carter County EMS and Roan Mountain Volunteer Fire Department all responded. Reese was declared dead at the scene, and Cook was airlifted to Johnson City Medical Center for treatment.

According to Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye, Tennessee Highway Patrol took control of the investigation.

Cook appeared in a Carter County courtroom on Tuesday in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace. He was charged with vehicular homicide, evading arrest, theft, reckless endangerment and driving on a suspended license. Cook’s attorney told WJHL that they are currently awaiting a toxicology report and an accident reconstruction.

Sheriff Kevin Frye called it a “tragic accident,” when he spoke about the untimely death of 17-year-old James Dalton Reese.

“Any time a young man has so much to live for and so much in his future, and loses his life, it’s a tragedy for everybody. We try to teach our young people that it’s imperative that they understand how the decisions they make can impact their future,” Frye said. “We hope that the justice system will show that people like Mr. Cook, who recklessly disregard the lives of others, face severe punishment.”