Local News

Two Die After Tree Falls On SUV

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BENSON, N.C. — A man and woman in their 70's were killed Friday after a tree fell on their vehicle in Johnston County.

The people in the car were identified as Eugene and Doris Beasley. Eugene, 72, was pronounced dead at the scene, and Doris, his 70-year-old wife, died after being airlifted by helicopter to Duke.

Investigators said the tree probably was blown over by heavy wind. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts of more than 30 miles per hour at the time of the accident.

"It was a freak of nature," Highway Patrol trooper David Mazzotta said. "I've seen (trees)falling in the road and a car hitting them," but not a tree striking a moving car."

The accident occurred in the McGee's Crossroads area of Stephenson Road and Penny Road.

The Beasleys were traveling in a Jeep Cherokee going east on State Road 1322 about eight miles north of Benson. Doris was driving, Eugene in the passenger's seat.

They came to a stop at an intersection, where -- even though they had the right-of-way -- they waved across another vehicle that had been waiting at a stop sign.

As they did so, the tree snapped and fell across their Jeep Cherokee, smashing through the windshield. They never saw it coming.

Mazzotta said the tree was up to 24 inches in diameter and sat 30 feet from the road's shoulder when it fell, crossing over the two-lane road.

Both Beasleys were trapped in the vehicle. The first rescue crew arrived on the scene in minutes, but it took nearly an hour to free the Beasleys.

Rescue crews had to use chainsaws to cut the tree away and and remove it with a boom truck before reaching the victims.

"Because of the size of the tree on the vehicle, we had to remove that first," Fire Chief Jim Parrish said. "It took us a little more time to get the equipment to handle the tree."

Neighbors watched in disbelief as crews tried to clean up the main street.

"What comes to my mind is that you have to be ready at anytime," one resident said, "because you never know when your time is there."