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Driver Pleads Guilty to Fatal Christmas Wreck

Posted May 10, 2007
Updated May 11, 2007

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— The driver involved in a Christmas Day wreck that killed three members of an Orange County family was placed on probation Thursday after pleading guilty to causing the crash.

Billy Ray Bullock Jr., 35, of Raleigh, pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail, which was suspended to three years on probation and 100 hours community service.

"I think everybody can quickly realize that this was a tragedy and nobody can walk away from this without something bad having happened to them," defense attorney Robert Tatum said.

Charles Burger Jr., his wife and their son were driving from Hillsborough to Wilson for Christmas when Bullock's westbound Chevrolet Tahoe spun out of control on the U.S. Highway 64 Bypass near Wendell, crossed the center median and collided head-on with their passenger van.

Barbara Burger, 57, and Ivan Burger, 20, were pronounced dead at the scene. Charles Burger died a week later.

Bullock suffered minor injuries in the wreck.

Sylvia Donovan, Charles and Barbara Burger's daughter, said Thursday that construction sites remind her of her brother, a garden brings her father to mind and she feels her mother's embrace when she puts on a sweater or coat.

"The community is not going to be the same without them, and we won't. We never will be," Donovan said. "They're just incredible people."

"My brother was a deacon and loved to serve those in need. His wife, Barbara, was the same way -- just very loving people whose lives were cut short," said Liz Burger, Charles Burger's sister.

District Judge Kristen Ruth initially sentenced Bullock to one year on probation but then decided to triple that because of his history of careless driving. She told him she wanted to see him back in her courtroom in a year to review his probation.

"I'm sorry that it happened," said Bullock, who will serve his community service by talking to young people about safe driving.

North Carolina Highway Patrol troopers determined that excessive speed was the primary factor in the wreck. But the state Department of Transportation repaved the stretch of U.S. 64 where the accident occurred after determining improper drainage made the highway slick when wet and contributed to a large number of wrecks.

Authorities also said a cable guardrail in the median that had been knocked out in an earlier accident played a factor in the wreck.

84 Comments

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  • party pooper May 12, 2007

    What a failure in the justice system on this one. Maybe I missed it, but has he gone to the families homes and sat down with them and really apologized? On the news or in the court is wonderfull and great yada yada, but a private meeting with the surviving members of the family would mean a lot more. I bet he's drivng around right now on this lovely Saturday afternoon.

  • colliefan May 11, 2007

    According to this morning's N&O, this guy had several prior covictions for speeding, reckless driving, and driving w/o a license. Given these priors ***some*** jail time seems to be justified such as a year of weekends spent in Wake County Correctional Center. After that make him work on tow trucks that clear mangled cars from wrecks caused by excessive speeding. Then make him pay for the funeral expenses of those he killed.

  • Melissa May 11, 2007

    Rev. RB - Thank you for your kind words. God Bless you too.

  • Panther May 11, 2007

    Patriot Very well said. Hind sight is 20/20. This man, no make that family will have to live with this the rest of their lives. A heavy burden for someone to carry.

  • i May 11, 2007

    yea patriot, I wonder how many of these people drive over the speed limit in the rain.

  • patriot May 11, 2007

    You people amaze me, I think some of you would love to have the death penalty for jay walking. The sentence sounds correct to me. There were issues with the road itself, it was raining, and yes he was driving to fast. Have a little compassion for everyone involved. For once I agree with the Rev on this one.

  • buck121794 May 11, 2007

    So what if he has to "live " with this forever. He does not care! If he had any shred of compassion, he would not have been speeding at any time much less during a rainstorm.

  • anonemoose May 11, 2007

    Shift and Browneyed girl, an accident is something that occurs that is not reasonably foreseen outcome of an action. A properly inflated tire blowing out, or some other mechanical malfunction, a tree falling across the road, something like that. Legally and morally, a COLLISION is the result of an act that could have been avoided. The report for this is a DMV-349, Record of Collision, not wreck or accident report. This was no accident by any definition, except for those who would absolve anybody of everything as long as they are sorrrrrrrrrrrrry. (snif, snif). He knew it was a heavy rainstorm that he was driving in, and he made a conscious CHOICE to speed, and three people are dead based on his CHOICES. Their is NO difference between his driving and my playing with a loaded firearm. Both the vehicle and firearm are designed for a specific purpose, and if handled properly can do great things. If either are controlled in a reckless manner, can cause the death of innocent persons. It is t

  • spiritwarriorwoman May 11, 2007

    HEY!!! None of you were in the court room or viewed any of the facts presented, so you don't know what you'd do, and your thoughts regarding the verdict aren't what counts here.

    People are dead. Others are grieving because they are dead. Don't you think your time would be better spent praying for the comfort of those grieving than spinning wheels here making guesses and statements that will bear no fruit???

    Praying for all.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • spiritwarriorwoman May 11, 2007

    Melissa - "Just remember while some of you are on here fighting via comments about who's right, and who's wrong, and all of that... my cousins continue to mourn the loss of their parents and youngest brother."

    AMEN!!!

    May God comfort your hearts.

    god bless.

    Rev. RB

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