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High-Speed Wreck Claims Soldier's Wife, Injures Him Critically

Posted March 13, 2008
Updated March 14, 2008

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— Hours after a Fort Bragg soldier returned from Iraq, he was involved in a wreck that killed his wife and left him critically injured, authorities said.

Chief Warrant Officer James Dunn, 36, was driving along Nursery Road north of Spring Lake at about 10:40 a.m. Wednesday when his 2006 Nissan convertible skidded on a curve and slammed into a stand of pine trees, said 1st Sgt. Tim Baldwin, of the state Highway Patrol.

Baldwin estimated that Dunn was traveling at 100 mph before the wreck, which splintered some of the trees and left wreckage strewn along the side of the road.

Gretchen Dunn, 36, wasn't wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car. She died at the scene.

Rescue personnel spent 20 minutes trying to free James Dunn, who was wearing a seat beat, from the wreckage. One of his legs was crushed and had to be amputated, and he could lose his other leg as well, Baldwin said.

He was in critical condition Thursday at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and was put into a coma to help his chances of recovery, Baldwin said.

Dunn, an intelligence analyst in Special Operations, had returned to Fort Bragg Tuesday night from a three-month deployment in Iraq.

The Dunns, who grew up together in Mechanic Falls, Maine, and had been married for 16 years, moved with their 13-year-old son to Fort Bragg from Washington, D.C., almost a year ago, Baldwin said. After the wreck, the boy went to stay with his grandparents in Maine, he said.

Relatives declined to comment Thursday, but they told Baldwin that Gretchen Dunn, a real estate agent, was "religious" about wearing her seat belt.

Troopers are trying to determine why James Dunn was driving so fast, Baldwin said. Dunn had a clean driving record, and no drugs or alcohol were involved, he said.

Dunn could be charged with involuntary manslaughter and other offenses in connection with the wreck, Baldwin said.


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  • Panther Mar 14, 2008

    Redneck Bob and JoeBlow:
    You’re both correct. All too often at that age young soldiers come back thinking that there invincible and are full of attitude. They forget that it’s the road way not the runway. I have not sympathy for someone who goes out after being told to be careful (unit commanders) and overdoses on stupid pills.

  • justwondering2 Mar 14, 2008

    Maybe he was just doing the guy thing... whooping it up little on his convertable on a nice sunny day with his wife. Was he going to fast? Yes. But that doesn't make him a bad person just one that used poor judgement at that particular time. Prayers for the family..

  • believer58 Mar 14, 2008

    This is a very sad tragedy.

    No amount of speculation will change the fact that this 13yr old boy has lost his mother and his father will have to live with the guilt for the rest of his life.

  • threegs Mar 14, 2008

    Please be respectful to the families and friends impacted by this loss. Anyone that knew this wonderful couple would know that the comments that have been made (speculation) are ridiculous. We all should be aware that something like this could happen to any of us and we would want others compassion, not their malicious comments.

  • bluford2 Mar 14, 2008

    Unfortunately, too many men return from service and are killed in car/motorcycle crashes.
    March 14, 2008 7:52 a.m.
    ^^i completely agree with you here. i see them everyday using ray road, highway 210, reilly road, all-american freeway, yadkin road and bragg blvd(and many others) as personal daytona speed tracks. 9 out of 10 it's young men in bdu's. something more needs to be done before more servicemen as well as the people who share the road with them are killed, maimed or injured. sure the military trains them to fight in battles just fine but what happens after they return home? why do you not see them doing the same behaviors on base as you do on civilian roadways?

  • WilloWSnapper Mar 14, 2008

    good way to committ murder huh

  • daddylike Mar 14, 2008

    A lot of times when soldiers get back from war they feel invincible. There are a lot of stories like this involving fast cars and motorcycles.

  • what happened to common sense Mar 14, 2008

    A few people have mentioned it was his fault, one person mentioned something about being charged. However, there are all sorts of other theories and reasons about why he was going too fast ie stuck gas pedal, thrill seeking, crazy marital problems. However, most of the posts about the teen's wreck were calling for him to be charged with manslaughter or worse.

  • dayanapage Mar 14, 2008

    This is a very sad story for anybody to make bad comments. This is so sad.

  • boingc Mar 14, 2008

    "No one here has mentioned anything about this driver was at fault and should be charged."

    Have you read the posts? There are plenty of people who talk about the driver being at fault. Read before you post!