Local News

Police Say Alcohol a Factor in Wake Car Accident

Posted June 6, 1996

— June 7, 1996 - 5:55 p.m. EDT

Authorities say a woman charged with drunken driving is to blame for a head-on collision in southern Wake County Friday that killed two people.

Killed in the accident were 62-year-old James Whitaker and 18-year-old Lacoya Laney. Whitaker was driving Laney to Cary High School.

The state Highway Patrol has charged Jennifer Hardin (pictured, right), 20, with driving while impaired and two counts of involuntary manslaughter. Hardin was convicted of DWI about two years ago, and her license had been revoked until about two and a half months ago.

The DWI charge for this incident will be accompanied by two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

A pick-up truck swerved to avoid Hardin's car and crashed into a fence along the side of the road. Whitaker and Laney were in the car behind that truck. The driver of that pick-up truck was not injured.

The highway patrol is looking for what they say is an important witness. They're hoping to find a man who apparently pulled up behind Hardin at a traffic light up Tryon Road. Authorities say he pulled over after the accident and said Hardin had been asleep. They want that man to call them at 919-733-3861.

Hardin is in stable condition at Wake Medical Center.

According to the Highway Patrol, Hardin was driving east on Tryon Road and crossed the center line. A pickup truck swerved to miss her and crashed into a fence along the road. Then her car slammed head-on into Whitaker's car, which was headed west on Tryon.

"They were killed instantly," said Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Johnson. "There were no skid marks prior to impact."

Bob Foster, who lives along Tryon Road, was among the first people on the scene.

"I took a look in the car, and the driver was pinned in," Foster told WRAL-TV5's Jim Axelrod. "And the other boy was in the back seat. And neither one of them was moving.

"Sick at the stomach. You just can't hardly explain it."

Reportedly, Hardin was on her way to work at Prestonwood Country Club

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