Charles G. Wilson, 31, was part of a work crew from Wake Correctional Center that was picking up trash in the I-40 median near Lake Wheeler Road on Tuesday morning when a sport utility vehicle went out of control, clipped an empty prison van on the highway shoulder and skidded into the median. The SUV flipped on top of Wilson and injured a second inmate and a correction officer.
The driver of the SUV, Frederick Henri Beaujeu-Dufour, 37, of Clinton, was charged Thursday morning with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in connection with Wilson's death.
Beaujeu-Dufour is the son-in-law of former U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth. He is scheduled to appear in court on the charge on Aug. 16.
"This is a terrible, terrible tragedy. It was a terrible accident. He and his family grieve for Mr. Wilson's family and those injured," his attorney, Doug Parsons, said in a statement.
But witnesses said the Department of Correction also was at fault for not warning drivers that the inmate crew was in the area.
"Signs are a big deal because we didn't even know they were there until we were passing them," said Cammie Gage, who helped roll the SUV off of Wilson with her friend, Kelly Snow.
"Just the thought of him lying there after the car rolled off him and he gasped for air – it was very hard," Snow said.
The Department of Correction is investigating the incident and reviewing policies on inmate work crews, spokesman Keith Acree said.
The trailer that carries the signs was in the shop, so the crew went to work without them – against department policy, Acree said.
"The signs are required. We know they should have been there. We're trying to find answers as to what happened that morning that they didn't take them with them," he said. He added, however, "Even if the signs had been there, is it something that would have stopped this?"
Wilson's relatives said they hold the department responsible for his death.
"I hold them accountable as well as the driver," said his sister, Markeita Wilson. "They didn't have the proper equipment to go out and pick up trash. They shouldn't have (gone). To me, they didn't care that humans were going out there. They didn't care about safety."
Family members also said Beaujeu-Dufour should face a more serious charge in the case. They questioned whether he is getting special treatment because of his ties to Faircloth.
Raleigh police deny the family's allegation.