Couple killed in I-40 wreck; young daughter critically injured

Posted November 18, 2011

— A Smithfield couple driving home from work late Thursday were killed in a head-on collision on Interstate 40 that left their 22-month-old daughter critically injured.

The crash happened at about 10 p.m. after a 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse crossed the median from the eastbound to the westbound lanes near the N.C. Highway 42 interchange and hit a 2005 BMW X5 SUV and a 2005 Lexus, according to North Carolina State Highway Patrol troopers.

Authorities still haven't determined the cause of the wreck, saying their preliminary investigation has ruled out alcohol and speed as possible factors.

The driver of the Mitsubishi, Terri Lynn Reeves, 20, of Hawks Nest Circle in Smithfield, and longtime boyfriend Joshua James Witherspoon, 22, of Black Creek Road in Smithfield, died on impact, authorities said.

Their daughter, Shelby Faith Witherspoon, was trapped in her car seat in the back of the Mitsubishi for 20 to 30 minutes until first responders could pull her from the wreckage, authorities said. She was airlifted to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, where she was listed in critical condition Friday.

Terri Reeves' brother, Brandon Reeves, said his niece was in a medically induced coma as physicians monitored a skull fracture and her liver function. The toddler was smiling and responding to family members, he said, so they were hopeful for her recovery.

Shelby Witherspoon, injured in I-40 wreck Toddler survives as parents die in wreck

Witherspoon and Terri Reeves had been together for about six years, had recently moved into a home in Smithfield and were planning to marry next year, Brandon Reeves said. Terri Reeves was pregnant with their second child, and Friday would have been Witherspoon's 23rd birthday.

"I just hate it for the whole family because family was everything to them," neighbor Mary Frances Collins said, noting that she and her daughter often played with Shelby in the yard.

The couple worked at Unlimited Recovery, a Raleigh towing service, and were on their way home when the wreck occurred, Brandon Reeves said. He said he believes a blown tire likely caused the crash, noting one of the Mitsubishi's tires was a temporary spare and had been on the car for a while.

The driver of the BMW, James Roland Smith Jr., 61, of Clinton, was treated at WakeMed and released, and his wife, Sherri C. Smith, 53, remained in the hospital Friday, but her condition was unknown. The driver of the Lexus, Holly Latty, 60, of Durham, suffered a minor injury but wasn't taken to a hospital.

Troopers closed all lanes of I-40 for about five hours Thursday night, reopening the highway to traffic in both directions at about 3:30 a.m.


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  • storchheim Nov 21, 2011

    With the "little girl's" photos displayed with this story, it's easy to see why everyone is caught up with commenting about her and her parents.

    But there were victims in the oncoming car too, and although they survived, they are no less important than the "little girl". And it wasn't their cars that crossed the median, for whatever reason; they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, which makes it worse, IMO.

  • Lead by Example Nov 21, 2011

    Praying for the deceased and their loved ones.

  • marinewife101 Nov 21, 2011

    @the7thseal - all I have to say to you is.....REALLY?!?!?! Sending prayers to their family and friends. God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.....yes, three lives were taken but that doesn't mean that you don't need to pray

  • marinewife101 Nov 21, 2011

    @happyeverafter 10 - I'm so so sorry for your loss of these two great people - with one on the just breaks my heart that this happened and that you all have to suffer such a loss. May God wrap His arms around you all and give you the strength that you will all need in the upcoming days, weeks, months and years. Their family has been in my prayers and will continue to be for some time. God Bless.

  • marinewife101 Nov 21, 2011

    @ Strawberry letter 23 - why doesn't it make sense??? Three precious lives were taken and another one in critical condition....

  • STRAWBERRY LETTER 23 Nov 18, 2011

    This story makes no sense.


  • mimi1123 Nov 18, 2011

    So sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to this family, especially the little girl.

  • sweatsuit Nov 18, 2011

    Thank You! Finally an adult comment, with reality, facts and truth. My thoughts and prayers are with involved.

  • 2gurlz2boyzMom Nov 18, 2011

    i apologize prozac.... i just read that Terri was pregnant. There were three killed in the accident.

    Such a sad story.

  • 2gurlz2boyzMom Nov 18, 2011

    hey prozacdispenser....the story has the number of dead people wrong. there was a total of three killed in the accident.
    where do u see a third?