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Suspected Case of Drag Racing Claimed Man's Life

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SMITHFIELD — A burned-out shell is all that is left of a 1982 Dodge Diplomat that crashed Sunday. The only thing holding it together is the passenger door latch.

TheN.C. Highway Patrolsays speed is to blame. Troopers say the car was going 84 miles an hour down Lefty Road toward Kenly in Johnston County. The speed limit on that road is 55 miles per hour.

The driver apparently lost control around the corner, rolled several times, slammed into a tree and then the vehicle burst into flames.

The two passengers inside were thrown out. Troopers say they may have been racing.

"A witness prior to the accident said he saw two cars come by at a high rate of speed," according to Trooper J.E. Blanks. "One of the vehicles he saw, came by shortly before this came back and asked him to call EMS [Emergency Medical Services]."

Trooper Blanks says the driver may have been 75-year-old Ed Buster Chatman, who was declared dead on the scene. The other passenger, Horace Ware Jr., was taken by helicopter to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

Neighbors say the two-lane road is a popular place for people to race.

"We've received some calls from down here. Not recently, but we have received some calls down here in the past," Blanks said.

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Lynda Loveland, Reporter
Lynn French, Photographer
Dallas Smith, Web Editor

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