911 caller says fatal Wake Forest crash could have been averted
Posted March 25
Updated March 28
Raleigh, N.C. — A man called 911 Tuesday to report a truck driving erratically on Interstate 40 hours before the truck was involved in a fatal crash in Wake Forest.
Investigators say Donald Wayne Caulder, 29, of Laurinburg, was northbound on Capital Boulevard in a dump truck hauling logs and towing a Bobcat at about 4:15 p.m. Tuesday when he rear-ended a 2004 Toyota Sienna.
The drump truck pushed the Sienna into the back of a tractor-trailer, and the minivan was crushed between the two trucks. The driver of the Sienna, Michelle Simone Barlow, 42, an English teacher at Wake Forest High School, was killed in the crash.
At about 1:30 p.m., a man following a log-laden dump truck towing a Bobcat called 911 to report the truck was swerving from lane to lane on eastbound I-40 near N.C. Highway 54 in Cary.
"He has run off the road probably a dozen times in the last 3 miles. You got to get somebody over here before he hits somebody. He's running people off the road," the caller said. "I don't know if he's drunk or falling asleep, but he's not holding the wheel."
The State Highway Patrol confirmed Friday that the license number of the truck the caller reported to 911 matches the tag number of the truck involved in the Wake Forest crash.
The 911 caller, who asked not to be identified, told WRAL News in an exclusive interview Friday that he followed the truck for about 20 miles, from Davis Drive in Research Triangle Park to the I-40 split with Interstate 440 near Garner, but was unable to get law enforcement to pull the truck over.
"Actually, at one point, I said to the 911 dispatcher, if you don't get somebody out here now, this guy's going to kill somebody," the man said.
He said he saw one Highway Patrol trooper and then a deputy with a funeral procession before he tried desperately to flag down a second trooper.
"I tried to wave the Highway Patrol officer down," the man said. "He looked over at me. I waved my arms frantically out the window with no response from him."
A Highway Patrol spokesman said the agency is looking into the man's call and the response to it.
The man said he even entertained the thought of pulling the dump truck over himself.
"I'm half tempted to pull this guy over myself because he's running people off the road," he told the dispatcher in the 911 call.
"Well, if you try to pull him over, you don't know what he's got in his vehicle, and you're putting yourself in danger," the dispatcher responded.
When the man saw news of the crash on Wednesday, he said he felt sick to his stomach.
"When I saw that picture on your website, I didn't even want to click the image to read the story because it was beyond my capability to comprehend what happened," he said. "Our community deserves better protection than this. I mean, I'm just going to say it if nobody else will, but shame on them."
Charges are pending against Caulder.
Caulder has been convicted of driving without a license, but seven other driving-related violations against him since 2008 were dismissed, according to court records. He also has two pending drug charges in Moore County.
Tim Robbins, the owner of the dump truck and Caulder's cousin, said Caulder has a commercial driver's license and passed an insurance background check.
Robbins said Caulder doesn't know what happened in the crash, which Robbins called "a tragic accident."