State troopers said Pearce and his wife, Sheila, were driving along Highway 42 when their vehicle crashed head-on into an oncoming pickup truck. Both Pearce and his wife died at the scene. The driver of the pickup, 24-year-old Richard Downing, was taken to WakeMed. He is listed in critical condition. The Highway Patrol said Downing was driving with a suspended license.
Members of the Bethany volunteer fire department said Pearce was a friend who helped them get through tough times.
"He was a well-respected man. You talk about people in our department who have a backbone, he was a great guy to talk to," volunteer firefighter Brian Batten said.
Pierce had been with the department for eight years.
Authorities said that weather and speed are not considered factors in the accident. The Highway Patrol said that no charges have been filed yet.
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