Wilson Family Remembers Man Who Died Near Beltline
Posted October 11, 2005 5:39 a.m. EDT
WILSON, N.C. — Family and friends gathered Tuesday to remember a Wilson man who police believe died early Saturday morning while trying to offer assistance to others.
Raleigh police believe 26-year-old Todd Fletcher stopped along Interstate 440 to help the victims of an accident and climbed over a concrete guard wall, not realizing that open space separated the bridges between the Outer and Inner Beltlines.
People who knew Fletcher said he was the type of man who had to help if he saw someone in need. A six-year naval veteran, Fletcher was a police officer in training and, according to family, a born leader. He was also a son, a brother and a friend to many.
"I can't say enough good things about him," said his brother, D.J. Fletcher. "He made me very proud."
About a month ago, Fletcher was hired by the Rocky Mount Police Department. On Sept. 19, he enrolled in the Rocky Mount Police Academy and was elected leader of his class of 14 cadets. He was expected to become a police officer by the end of the year.
"You just look at him, his facial expression, and knew he was a natural person to be in law enforcement," said Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley. "He wanted to help people. We will truly miss him."
Raleigh investigators said that in dark, rainy conditions, Fletcher climbed over a barrier in the road, not realizing there was no pavement in the middle. A canoeist found Fletcher's body in Crabtree Creek Sunday afternoon. Investigators found the car Fletcher was driving along the Beltline with his wallet inside.
It was not until police realized Fletcher made a call from his cell phone to 911 at the time he apparently saw the accident that they put the two incidents together.
"From every appearance, it was a tragic accident," said Raleigh Police Department spokesman Jim Sughrue.
The only way to know that part of the Beltline, where it crosses Glenwood Avenue and Six Forks Road, is over water is by looking at small signs on either side of the roadway that could be missed in the dark, police said. There are no signs in the section between the two barriers, where it is more than a 50-foot drop to the rocks and water.
Department of Transportation officials said they have never had a similar accident in the location on the Beltline, but they intend to study the area to see if it can be made safer. Some suggestions from citizens include more signs and possibly even a grate or a net to keep someone from falling.
"This was a citizen who had gone to render aid to somebody who needed help," said Lt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman for the N.C. Highway Patrol. "It cost him his life. We owe him a responsibility to go back and make it safe so it doesn't happen to someone else."
Funeral services for Fletcher were scheduled for Tuesday evening at Farmington Heights Church of God in Wilson, where he worked with the youth in the congregation.