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Friends flock to site of fatal Harnett crash

Posted November 11, 2013
Updated November 12, 2013

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— Monday was a day off from school at Harnett Central High School, but some students and graduates received a hard lesson about life.

The teens and young adults spent much of the day at the site of a Sunday morning crash that killed three people and injured two others. They left flowers and stuffed animals in a memorial next to a tree with blackened branches that has bark stripped off part of the trunk.

"It's helping a little bit to get it all out and see it," Katie Bradley said. "It touches me. It makes me feel a little closer to Austin, like he's still right here."

Austin Stewart Ferrell, 20, of Buies Creek, was one of the people killed in the crash. Driver Shane Mitchell Garner, 23, of Coats, and passenger Casey Dell Edens, 16, of Lillington, also died.

State Highway Patrol troopers say Garner's pickup careened off Neills Creek Road near Lillington at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday and slammed into a tree in front of an abandoned home. A fireball then engulfed the truck and the tree.

Authorities said they believe the truck sped through a license check point on U.S. Highway 421 near Campbell University earlier and that alcohol was a factor in the crash.

Harnett wreck Victims of fiery wreck all had ties to Harnett Central High

Garner and Ferrell were graduates of Harnett Central High, and Edens and two other passengers – Autumn Ashlyn Zimmer and Marina Troyano, both 17 and from Fuquay-Varina – were juniors at the school.

"We're all devastated. It's just a huge shock. This isn't supposed to happen, nothing like this," said Andrew Hawley, a friend of the victims.

"It's just, like, why? Why does this have to happen? When she was so sweet, like, why her?" said Olivia Wilder, who worked with Edens at a restaurant. "(I remember) her laugh and just her smiling. She was just, like, literally, one of the funniest people I know."

Zimmer was listed in serious condition Monday at WakeMed, while Troyano was in fair condition.


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  • lilybugs2 Nov 13, 2013

    What in the world were a 16 year old and two 17 year old girls doing out that time of night? Do children not have curfews anymore?

  • common tater Nov 12, 2013

    They think they're indestructible because the part of their brain that guages risk literally isn't fully formed yet. Agree with Erin...it's not just the driver's fault. I pray the girls from the video and others connected will think twice before engaging in similar conduct. So sad...prayers for the family.

  • dejr8875 Nov 12, 2013

    I agree with tmp32100, I posted that earlier, evidently therev was an issue. For the life of me, I'm still trying to figure out why teens and young adults seem to think they're indestructible. I really hope this opens their eyes and they get a clue. My thoughts and prayers are with the families.

  • erinbsly Nov 12, 2013

    Wow.....judging by some of the comments one would think the driver forces the passengers at gunpoint to get in the vehicle. The fact is they ALL made bad choices and some paid the ultimate price........this is tragic and all the families should be able to mourn their loss without people pointing fingers and playing the blame game. Prayers to all involved and hoping for speedy recovery for the girls still in the hospital.

  • lovinOBX Nov 12, 2013

    So sad. Bad decisions that will effect these families for the rest of their lives..I lost my only nephew at 17, things are never the same after that loss.

  • BubbaDukeforPresident Nov 12, 2013

    People ask stupid questions: "Why did this have to happen?" Because people make stupid decisions like drinking and driving and riding with people who drink and drive. We attract things into our lives based on how we think. When we think we're the exception, we find out we're not. When we think we have the world at our feet, it crushes us. When we choose the wrong friends, we compound our wrong thinking with their wrong thinking and we end up wrapped around a tree. Had the driver cared about others, he might have made different choices.

  • Gunny the Racist Nov 12, 2013

    These stories happen far too often. It's a constant hard lesson about the things in life that kids should never do. This one kid decided to make several bad choices in a row, and he killed himself and several others. Nothing can be done to bring them back, but hopefully others will see how those bad decisions led to this tragedy.

    Thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of those that were killed in this crash. Hopefully these lives will serve as a reminder to others and save someone elses family from dealing with the same fate.

  • tuckerbrian54 Nov 12, 2013

    This so true " tmp32100 ", I posted very similiar, but WRAL has chosen not to post it, who knows why ..... Sadly, this is a lesson learned. Bless the families.

  • VW girl 2013 Nov 12, 2013

    It's the "invincible" complex...nothing can hurt me! WRONG! People need to wake up and be responsible. The driver didn't just kill himself, he took 2 other lives with him! This is rediculous! The 20 & 23 year olds were adults, so no way to control them, but the 16 & 17 year olds...why on Earth were they not home in bed? My daughter is 19 & has her own child, but recently she moved back in with me due to financial hardships. My house, my rules...home by midnight & no drinking & driving. If she's at a party, and this goes for all her friends', also, they are to call me for a ride, no questions asked! Safe is better than sorry!

  • ssmithsand Nov 11, 2013

    I guess I am old school but why were 16 and 17 year olds out at 2:30 in the morning in the first place. Now one is gone (along with the other two) in the prime of their lives never to see what the future will hold for them. I feel sorry for the families because you know they are saying "what if this" or "what if that". They are suffering too with guilt and blame. Please let this tragedy wake up some parents so this will not happen to their children.