Local News

Princeton High School grieves again after two-death crash

Posted September 18, 2008
Updated September 20, 2008

— Exactly one year after a Princeton High School student died in a car crash, students and staff were mourning again after a senior and a recent graduate died in a wreck Wednesday night.

Brandon Lee Baker, 21, and Matthew Brandon Stewart, 17, died after their green Saturn crossed the center line on Fellowship Church Road and hit a Jeep driven by an elderly woman around 8:30 p.m.

Stewart is the fourth Princeton senior to die in a car crash in the past 12 months. Baker was a graduate of Princeton.

"It's just hard, just to see that they're both gone," said Baker's brother, Tyler, who was a fellow senior at Princeton with Stewart.

A helicopter and two ambulances took the 80-year-old Jeep driver and the Saturn’s driver and other passenger – also Princeton students – to a hospital.

The students had serious injuries but were expected to be OK. The 80-year-old, female victim was listed in critical condition after undergoing surgery at Duke University Medical Center Thursday afternoon.

"She was in pretty bad shape, real bad shape, a lot of lacerations and broken bones," the victim's nephew, Roger Brown, said.

The extent of the injuries of the Saturn's occupants was not known.

Authorities said they believe speed might have been a factor in the crash.

Both Stewart and Baker played football at Princeton and were members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, according to school officials.

Mourners created a roadside memorial with two wooden crosses and a bracelet hung on the branch of a plant at the wreck scene. Students came to the memorial throughout Thursday.

Princeton lowered its flags to half-staff in remembrance of the young men.

Tyler Baker described his brother as "a great guy, loving. He'd do anything for anybody."

Stewart was "my best friend," Tyler Baker said. "He brings me home every day from football practice. I mean, we do everything together."

Brown came to the wreck scene Thursday, concerned about the two young men who died.

When Baker's family saw him, they rushed over to comfort Brown and offer prayers for his aunt.

"It's just one of those things, you know," Brown said. "You've got to leave it in God's hands."

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Princeton senior Gilbert Martin. He died after losing control of his car on Progressive Church Road.

Johnston County law enforcement officials say the number of auto-related teen deaths is alarming. In 2007, the county led the state with 11 fatalities.

Neighboring Harnett County had two fatalities, while Wake and Wayne counties each had one. A senior and a junior from Green Hope High School in Cary died Nov. 7 in a crash in Chatham County.

Authorities say growth in Johnston County combined with winding rural roads to which students are not paying enough attention are factors in the high number of fatalities.

81 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • PTownMom Sep 19, 2008

    Our Bulldog Prayer
    t.paul

    Lord, hear our Prayers
    Our struggle, as You know, is with loss
    Through death, we have lost a part of who we are
    I can’t help but wonder how we can continue to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts.

    Our family has lost so many young loved ones in too short of a time.
    Some days we play our ballgames, take our tests and go out on our dates or gang hangs as if nothing has changed
    But without warning we see, hear or smell something that takes us back to a conversation, a car ride, a touchdown, a cheer, that we shared with our friend and our heart aches just like the moment we heard of their passing.

    We are told to not question You, it was just their time and You have a plan… Lord, we apologize, but we don’t understand. Our community is small and we all know and protect one another. Princeton is a special place, outsiders would not understand. We have tradition, history, loyalty and roots. By taking just one of us, You have broken the hearts of all of us.

  • ashlay05 Sep 19, 2008

    PRINCETON HAS BEEN THROUGH A LOT IN THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS, I GRADUATED FROM PRINCETON IN 05' AND I KNEW BOTH OF THOSE BOYS THAT WERE KILLED AND IT DOES TAKE A LOT OF TIME TO GET OVER SOMETHING LIKE THIS. THE OLDER LADY THEY HIT WAS MY AUNT, SO THIS STORY HITS HOME REALLY CLOSE TO HOME, SO FOR ALL THE NEGATIVITY OUT THERE HAVE SOME RESPECT AND PRAY FOR THESE FAMILIES OF THE 2 BOYS DEAD AND THE TWO BIYS IN THE HOSPITAL.

  • newmommy06 Sep 18, 2008

    Praying for the families...

  • raysofsunshine Sep 18, 2008

    People, please have some respect for the families and friends who are grieving for the lost and praying for the hurt! I am a senior at PHS and after going through all that we've been through, it does not get any easier losing a classmate! Some of the comments you leave about teenagers being irresponsible is irrevelant to the fact that this small community has to go through this same process again!

    People make mistakes all the time like this and just because the driver happened to be a teenager does not give one the justification to make assumptions on the fact that it was because of his age! It was an accident that had bad consequences, that's all.

    Anyone who wants to do something about the driving age or anything of the sort should realize that posting on this site is doing absolutely nothing but showing arrogance. If you really want to make a difference then tell someone who can!

    As for the families I'm sorry, and for the two in the hospital, i miss you, get well soon.

  • NCTeacher Sep 18, 2008

    Speeding, driving recklessly or not- the sad issue of this whole story is that two young lives were lost. Whether it could have been avoided or not- I don't know. God takes us in his own time and in his own way. My heart goes out to the family and friends of these kids.

    I went to PHS in 1996 when we lost three students in 2 crashes all on the same day. My entire class of students was never the same after that. I am sure the entire student body and faculty of Princeton needs our prayers and support rather than our bickering over speed right now.

  • schoonie79 Sep 18, 2008

    Motor Vehicle Collisions are the #1 cause of death for people ages 1-34 and the 2nd cause of death for people 35-64, most of the time affecting males. I was working EMS last night and when the call was dispatched I knew it was going to bad. The fire department, EMS crews and LEOs on scene bared witness to a horrible tragedy that took 2 young people away and left 3 others badly injured. Lets show a little restraint and compassion for those affected by this horrible tragedy and try to come up with a prevention strategy. Raising the driving age will not change a thing if these drivers are not properly trained to drive a vehicle its that simple.

  • Obscurite Sep 18, 2008

    " I was stating that people was upset because the police said it was due to speeding, and I was stating that, we all sometimes speed, and the police assuming the factor was speed was nothing to get defensive about." Seeminglyopposed

    First, I appoligize for any mis-understanding of your post. Second, I stand by my call for people to SLOW DOWN and that speed is a symptom of selfishness. Peaple speed for a variety of reasons but in all cases they do so at the expense of others on the beltline. Weaving in and out of traffic causes others to have to break quickly causing a chain of what I liken to a slinky of break lights, but it all boils down to this..."my time is far more valuable than your time so I have every right to speed".
    Its selfishness like this that has led us to be the great country we are today (sorry, somebody pressed my sarcasm switch on that last one).

  • MamaDummy Sep 18, 2008

    It was also exactly 10 years ago today that Wilson's Hunt High School lost two young men in a crash involving a small sports car head on with a school bus...and unfortunately speed was a major factor. The small car crossed center line head on into a school bus & the school bus was actually knocked off it's axle. Terrible, terrible day for Wilson..will never ever forget it.

  • packfan21 Sep 18, 2008

    This is so sad and what a tragic way to end your young life. Teenagers and young adults alike please note of this and slow down and pay attention to what you are doing. Praying for the family of all involved

  • m123 Sep 18, 2008

    THE NEED FOR SPEED IS DEADLY.

More...