Investigators: Defective throttle led to crash that killed Knightdale shop owner
Posted October 1, 2015
Updated September 29, 2016
Knightdale, N.C. — [Editor's note: After a brief closure following the crash in 2015, Massey Auto Works re-opened for business.]
The owner of a Knightdale automotive shop died early Thursday from injuries he sustained in a fiery crash that happened outside his business.
James Victor Massey, 48, was badly burned at about 5:45 p.m. Wednesday when the Volkswagen dragster he was driving struck a Ford pickup truck that was parked in the service area of Massey Auto Works, at 101 S. First Ave.
The dragster caught fire after the crash, and Massey was cut from the car after the fire was extinguished.
Massey was taken to UNC Hospitals, where he died at about 2 a.m. Thursday, according to Knightdale police.
Leighann Carawan was working at the hair salon next door to Massey Auto Works and heard the crash. She ran outside, but it's too difficult for her to talk about the incident.
"I was up all last night. I've prayed," said Carawan. "I'm really sad. My heart goes out to his boys, his parents, he has a brother and a sister. It's a very emotional, sad time."
On Thursday afternoon, friends and family began making a small memorial outside the shop to honor Massey. Friends described him as a carefree, funny and kind guy who was passionate about his hobbies, including drag racing.
"He was just a good guy. He didn't take a lot of junk either," said Massey's longtime friend and customer Chuck Watson. "He'd tell you how it was. He liked what he did."
Massey's cousin, Justice Massey, drove up just after the accident happened. Like others, he prefers to focus now on the man who made so many people smile.
"It's sad. It's a freak accident that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," said Justice Massey. "He loved to be around people, loved drag racing and he passed away doing what he loved."
A preliminary investigation revealed that Massey was testing a motor that had just been installed in the dragster. While testing the vehicle in his parking lot, the throttle became stuck in the open position, authorities said.
Investigators said that it appeared as though Massey took evasive action to keep the dragster from leaving his property and struck the parked truck while doing so. The impact caused the fuel line to break, resulting in the ignition of the high-octane racing fuel used in the car.
"Jimmy Massey, his family, and his company have been long time staples of the Kinghtdale community," said Knightdale Police Captain Jacqui Boykin. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time."