Local News

Pickup Truck, Tractor-Trailer In Deadly Collision In Chatham County

Posted May 17, 2003 5:09 a.m. EDT

— A pickup truck and a tractor-trailer carrying steel were involved in a deadly collision Friday morning that killed the driver of the truck and sent two others to the hospital.

The accident occurred shortly before 9 a.m. on Highway 421, about eight miles south of Siler City. Investigators said the pickup truck, with Pennsylvania tags, crossed the center line and barrelled head-on into the tractor-trailer.

There wasn't much left of either vehicle after the collision, which resulted in a huge fire and wreckage that closed the road until just before noon.

"It sounded like a bomb, and fire," said witness Robert Ancone. "Flames flew up and started popping. Diesel fuel burns like kerosene. When it starts burning, it starts blazing."

Investigators said the driver of the tractor-trailer jumped out of his cab before the ball of fire came up and made it off into the woods. He has been taken to Central Carolina Hospital.

"The truck had ignited on collision," said trooper Chris Pate of the Highway Patrol. "I think he (the driver) was very lucky. Evidently, the entire area was on fire at one point, and the whole roadway."

Also taken to the hospital for treatment was a 5-year-old boy who was found still strapped into his car seat. He was listed in critical condition just before noon.

A big, 20,000-pound spool of steel that was on the tractor-trailer came flying off and slammed into the road, taking a huge divot out of the pavement. Veteran troopers, some with 20 years on the road, said they'd never seen destruction like it.

The tractor-trailer driver has been identified as Dennis Benjamin, 41, of McColl, SC. He was driving for Grayson Mitchell, Inc. out of Emporia, Va. Benjamin had been driving from Weirton, W.Va., to Clinton, N.C. He was treated and released from Central Carolina Hospital.

The pickup driver has been identified as Sharon Brogan, 52, of Venetia, Pa. She had picked her grandson up in Cameron. He was in the truck with her. They were on their way back to Pennsylvania.

The 5-year-old has been identified as Blair Milliken of Cameron. He was transported by EMS to Central Carolina Hospital, then flown to UNC Hospitals. He is still critical., with a broken leg and head trauma.

The boy had just graduated from pre-kindergarten the day before.