Local News

Six Killed, Two Injured in Chatham County Accident

Posted September 10, 2001 1:16 a.m. EDT

— Investigators hope interviews with survivors will shed light on what caused a head-on collision Tuesday in Chatham County that killed six people -- the deadliest crash in the state in a year.

Doctors said that Angela Cline, 36, suffered life threatening injuries from the car accident. Wednesday, her condition was upgraded from critical to serious at UNC Hospital.

"She has massive fractures to her face bones," UNC Dr. Wes Wallace said. "She has a head or a brain injury. She has fractures to the upper and lower portions of one leg, and to one forearm."

Cline was in a Buick Century with six other people -- ages 8 to 22 -- all of whom were killed when their car crossed the center line of a rural highway and crashed head-on into a pickup.

The accident happened on N.C. 902 in southwestern Chatham County about 2:45 p.m. The car and truck collided half a mile east of Harpers Crossroads near Goldston.

The dead are identified as Jason Terry, 22, of Siler City; Travis Valentine, 22, of Siler City; Thelma Ruth Violet Long, 18, of Robbins; Debbie Morgan, 17, of Carthage; Pug Edward Seekings, 17, of Siler City; and Shemone Alston, 8, of Goldston.

Ralph Smith said that he heard the collision from inside his home, and went out to check the victims' pulses.

"If some of them did have pulses they were very low," Smith said.

Highway Patrol spokeswoman Renee Hoffman said that an eastbound Buick crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a westbound Ford pickup truck. Hoffman says seven people were in the car. Six of them, including the driver, died.

Hoffman says four of the victims died at the scene and two died in helicopters on their way to hospitals.

The driver of the truck, William Tally, 43, who survived but was injured, told Smith that the car was swerving all over the road before it struck his truck.

Tally told authorities: "The only thing I know is that they were weaving and I couldn't get out of their way... I don't know how bad I'm hurt.'"

Tally was discharged Wednesday from Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford.

Highway Patrol Trooper B.K. Palmiter said that this is the worst accident he has seen.

"I knew that it was bad," Palmiter said. "It was probably the worst one I have seen in four and a half years."

It was the deadliest crash since 10 high school students from Plymouth died July 30, 1997, when a tractor-trailer smashed into their car as it was trying to pass on a rain-slick road.

It also was the worst accident in the Triangle since a pileup on Interstate 85 near Durham killed eight people; 14 others were injured in the crash.

OnLine Producers: MJ Ainsley and Jason Darwin