Teenager Critically Injured After Boulder Dropped from I-95 Overpass
Posted March 14, 1999
FAYETTEVILLE — We've seen it happen before in Durham and in Johnston County. Huge rocks and other heavy objects hurled from highway overpasses onto fast-moving traffic below.
That is exactly what happened to a father and son driving along Interstate 95 in Cumberland County early Monday morning.
Michael Dennis Vytlingam, 18, is in critical condition at Cape Fear Memorial Hospital. He is being treated for head injuries and a broken arm and jaw. The teenager also lost an eye.
Vytlingam and his father, Dennis, were driving from Florida to their home in Toronto, Canada when authorities say someone dropped a 30-pound rock from an overpass onto I-95. The boulder crashed into the driver's seat where the 18-year-old was sitting.
Dennis Vytlingam, who was asleep in the passenger seat, says he heard a loud bang.
"I opened up my eyes and all I did, I noticed he went back, and I thought 'Did he fall asleep?' And then I saw he wasn't moving and I said 'Mike, are you OK?' He wouldn't answer so I grabbed the wheel immediately," says Vytlingam, who was not seriously hurt in the accident.
Trucker Nathaniel Calloway was driving behind the Vytlingam's sport utility vehicle. His truck also became a target; a second boulder crashed through his tractor trailer.
Calloway says he did not know what hit him.
"I couldn't make out what it was. The loud booming sound, which hit my truck, sounded like the blowout of a tire," says Calloway. "And so I thought I blew out a front, steer tire."
"And that huge boulder could have bounced around and killed quite a few people instead of just hurting one who is near death," says Vytlingam.
Sheriff Moose Butler says whoever dropped the boulder planned it out because 30 pound rocks are not just found along the side of the road. He believes at least two people were in on the attack.
The Vytlingams and Calloway were traveling north, near exit 49 in Cumberland County when the boulders dropped from the overpass.
State troopers say they periodically have problems with people throwing things off of overpasses onto I-95 in Cumberland County. They always try to stress that what may seem like a joke could easily kill someone.
Authorities have few leads and urge anyone who may have been driving along the area around 1 a.m. Monday to come forward with any information they have.
Cumberland County sheriff's deputies and Highway Patrol troopers are also increasing patrols in the area.
"Any time that our people can have some free time, they're not tied up in any other areas, then we're going to try to get them to check these overpass, bridge areas," says Butler.