4 Dead, 4 Injured In Johnston County Auto Accident
Posted April 4, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT
JOHNSTON COUNTY — Investigators will be reconstructing a crash today that killed four children in Johnston County Wednesday afternoon.
A commercial truck pulling a trailer and a maroon Chevy Blazer collided just outside of Kenly at the intersection of Beulahtown and Bay Valley roads around 2:30 p.m.
Troopers say the Chevy Blazer's driver, Christy Sullivan, 28, of 201 Southland Drive in Zebulon, failed to yield at the stop sign at the intersection.
The four children, who were sitting in the back of the Chevy Blazer, were killed. Two of the children were Sullivan's: 12-year-old Steve Lee Strickland and his 9-year-old sister Briana. They were also the children of Wayne Strickland, deputy fire marshal in Harnett County. Strickland and Sullivan are divorced.
Sullivan was babysitting 3-year-old Taylor Ellis who also died in the accident. Chastity Knox, 8, of Laurens, S.C. was related to the front seat passenger and died as well.
Sullivan and 12-year-old Kevin Watts, who was sitting in the front of the Chevy Blazer, were taken by helicopter toDuke University Medical Center. Sullivan is listed in serious condition, and Watts is listed in fair condition.
State Trooper Sgt. Wade Bulloch says there was nothing that could have saved the children.
"Seatbelts just would not have helped in a collision of this magnitude," Bulloch says. Sgt. Bulloch says charges may be filed in the crash.
"At this juncture, we will contact the district attorney's office in this county, and that will be a decision that they will have to make," Bulloch says. -->
The two occupants in the commercial truck were shaken up, but their injuries are not considered life-threatening. Intersection May Be Partly To Blame
The intersection near Kenly may have been to blame for the auto accident. People who live nearly the intersection say they have seen problems for years.
Charles McLain lived near the intersection and ran down to help after he heard the crash.
"There was one out of the SUV who was laying on the ground and just as I got up there, another lady came up to try to get him calm and to quit moving around," McLain says.
From his front porch, McLain says he has seen it happen many times before.
"Some of them come to a stop and go on through, and some just appear that they don't see the stop sign and go on through," McLain says. "Personally, I have been expecting it for a long time."
McLain says the state could do more to make sure no driver ever runs the stop sign again. He says he would like to see some of the trees near the stop sign trimmed as well as have yellow warning lights installed so drivers know when they are approaching the intersection. Neighbors React To The Accident
The driver and most of the children in the car were from Zebulon. Neighbors say they are still in shock about the loss of part of their community.
Neighbors who know Christy Sullivan say she was on her way to pick up another child getting out of school at Glendale-Kenly High School when the accident happened.
"I just had a funny feeling when I heard it was a Blazer with all of these kids in it because I knew that Christy travels that route a lot," says neighbor Tina Minton. "I knew she would be coming back from picking kids up from this afternoon."
Minton says Sullivan was very safe with children. "She would have never, ever put those kids in jeopardy," Minton says.
No matter what the police report says, the neighbors say they will support Sullivan.
"People need to know that Christy is a wonderful person," Minton says. "She is a great mother and a great wife, and I hope and pray that she pulls through this OK."
Authorities have not decided whether charges will be filed in the case.