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Zebulon man mourns loss of wife; urges others to not text and drive

Posted May 31

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— Darryl Claybourne said the crash that claimed the life of his wife Monday morning robbed him of his “soulmate” and made clear the very serious dangers of texting and driving.

"When you're texting, your head is down, and in a split second if you're not looking, you're going to take somebody's life," Claybourne said.

Erik Christian Hicks, 41, of Knightdale, told police he looked down at a text as he was driving on U.S. Highway 64 Monday and didn’t see the van driven by Judy Claybourne as it pulled into his lane.

"I thought she was OK, but it didn't work out that way," Darryl Claybourne said. "That was my soulmate. No matter what, we stuck together."

Troopers said Hicks, who was transported to WakeMed with non-life-threatening injuries, did not slow down before colliding with Claybourne's vehicle. Hicks admitted to members of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol that he was texting at the time of the collision and that he did not see the van.

He has been charged with texting while driving and failure to wear a seatbelt.

The Claybournes and their daughter, Ameerah, were headed home to Zebulon after spending a long weekend visiting relatives in Philadelphia.

Darryl Claybourne and his wife had just switched positions so that she was driving, and Judy Claybourne pulled back onto the road in front of Hicks. Hicks ran into the rear of the Pontiac, forcing the van off the highway and into a nearby wooded area, where it overturned.

Judy Claybourne was pronounced dead at the scene. Darryl and Ameerah were taken to WakeMed with serious injuries.

Hicks could face more serious charges once a full report is turned over to the Wake County District Attorney, authorities said.

"They will look at that information and then they will decide if additional charges are warranted," Gordon said.

Claybourne said he hopes the tragedy will send a message.

"She might be in a better place. I am going to miss her. My daughter is going to miss her," he said. "This is the result of texting and driving. Don't do it. Please don’t do it."

Hicks has a previous DWI conviction, but investigators said there was no evidence of alcohol use in Monday's wreck. Hicks’ car was equipped with an intoxilyzer, which requires a driver to blow into it before the car will start.

The investigation is ongoing.


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  • Janet Ghumri Jun 1, 9:51 a.m.
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    At least he is taking responsibility for what he knows that he did wrong. It may result in more charges against him, but he is setting an invaluable lesson for his little girl. The drivers who don't admit it, and cost the state full fledged investigations should be punished more severely. He wasn't drinking, the news should drop that from the story. It makes him look guilty for something that isn't pertinent information this case. I think it would be a great idea to have a disabling feature for text/Internet browsing while driving (some of the GPS functions do it.) Like the breathalyzer function, it could save lives.

  • Reggie Berryman Jun 1, 9:01 a.m.
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    My condolences Mr. Claybourne, but your pleas will fall on deaf ears...Just like drinking and driving and wearing seat belts!

  • John Townsend Jun 1, 7:20 a.m.
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    View quoted thread

    It does sound like the other car pulled out onto the highway without making sure nobody was coming.
    More should be made of their choice to switch seats on a highway shoulder. Had they stopped at an exit, she would have been getting up to speed on a entrance ramp rather than pulling on the highway directly.
    Even with his failure to pay attention, this could have been avoided. Sad.

  • Mary Meadows May 31, 11:28 p.m.
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    I am going to state clearly that he should not have been texting however did anyone else notice in the video clip that all do the damage occurred on the right side only of his vehicle? It appears as though the left or drivers side has no damage. They also state that he did not apply brakes. Wouldn't that indicate that the other driver was just beginning to pull out and must have done so with so little distance between the two cars that she wasn't even able to get fully in the lane? While this does not detract from his culpability in the accident it certainly makes me wonder if he could have avoided it even if he wasn't texting.

  • Mary Meadows May 31, 11:13 p.m.
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    I don't think the media should keep announcing his prior DWI conviction. They have stated that alcohol had nothing to do with it and that's why I feel as if it is irrelavent to this accident. Had he been drinking my opinion would be different. Perhaps if he had been a multiple repeat offender it would show disregard for others on the highway. I'm assuming that is not the case since they have not stated this. I personally have never driven and drank, but I have seen firsthand the devastation it can cause but again I just don't see the relevance in this case. Just my opinion.

  • Lance Boyle May 31, 6:49 p.m.
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    Erik seems like an honest guy, How many would admit to this? Still bad news, but he can at least know he did not try to lie his way out of it. What if everyone that got caught breaking the law told the truth? Helps the family with closure as well.