Driver Pleads Guilty to Fatal Christmas Wreck
Posted May 10, 2007
Updated May 11, 2007
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.