Local News

Excessive Speed Likely Cause Of Deadly Crash

Posted June 1, 2001

— Speed is likely the cause of a car accident that killed four Raleigh high school students along Interstate 540 Wednesday night, investigators say.

An investigation continues into the two-vehicle accident. The Raleigh police accident report indicates the car the students were riding in was travelling as fast as 105 miles per hour.

The Accident: The accident happened between the Leesville Road and Lumley Road exits around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Investigators say Bryan Reaves, 18, was behind the wheel of a 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible.

The accident report indicates Reaves was going 105 mph when he lost control of his vehicle going west, towards RDU International, in the center lane of I-540.

His car then skidded into the left lane, went across the median and skidded across three more lanes before hitting a van in the far right hand lane on the other side of I-540.

The car hit a conversion van, with a family of five inside, head-on. Police say its speed at impact was 70 miles per hour.

"It is an extremely high rate of speed. I think that was summed up in the narrative of the report that excessive speed was the contributing factor in the accident," says Capt. M.E. Matthews of the Raleigh Police Department.

"As he moved over into the right lane, and accelerated, his tire exploded and his car swerved towards me," says witness Chris Peterson.

Raleigh police are still investigating whether a blown tire may have been part of the cause of the accident. They are also looking into whether or not the students may have been racing.

The Victims: Reaves and his three passengers were killed.

Reaves and Matthew Yurcak, 17 , were students at Leesville High School. Reaves was expected to graduate Friday.

Jamie Lynn Brewer, 17, was a former Leesville student.

David Smith, 17, who goes by the name Michael, was a student atSanderson High School.

Police say Maria Knighten, 34, the driver of the van, tried to get out of the car's way, but was unsuccessful. Knighten, who is several months pregnant, was treated and released from Wake Med Thursday.

Her husband, William Knighten, 37, was treated and released from the hospital, as well. He credits the family's van with saving their lives.

Their three children ages 1, 3 and 6, were not seriously injured. The couple's 6-year-old daughter has some broken bones, and remains under observation.

The Witnesses: Police and eyewitnesses say it was one of the worst accidents they have ever seen because it involved so many young people.

"We did do everything we could for them, but based on the mechanisms of the injury and the injuries that were obvious to us, there was nothing we could do for them at that time," says Chief Ben Jeffreys of the Six Forks Rescue Squad.

Witness Daniel Gorski says that he was on the porch with some neighbors when he heard the accident.

"It sounded pretty bad, so we started running over to see if we could help. We heard a scream and when we got on the scene it was pretty ugly," Gorski says.

Investigators say alcohol was not a factor, nor was the weather. However the accident did take place at a slight curve on I-540.

Some of the teens in the car had seatbelts on; some did not. No one was thrown from the convertible, so police do not believe having seatbelts on would have saved anyone in this case.

The Division of Motor Vehicles says Reaves had no previous motor vehicle violations.


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