Couple killed in I-40 wreck; young daughter critically injured
Posted November 18, 2011
Clayton, N.C. — 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.
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.