The accident happened about 1:30 p.m. in thenorthbound lanes when Luther Thomas Vellines Jr., 47, of Chesapeake, Va.,pulled his Chevrolet Suburban into the path of a tractor-trailer near Dunn. Vellines was changing lanes, apparently to pass a slow-moving state vehicle. The state vehicle was following a road crew applyingherbicide to the median, forcing a moving closure of the northboundpassinglane.
The driver of the truck that hit the car said the car moved into theright lane suddenly, and he could not avoid a collision. After impact, thecar flipped and caught fire.
Motorists who drove up on the scene pulled three of four occupants --their clothes on fire -- from the car. Vellines was pinned in his vehicleand died in the fire.
The passenger in the front seat, Charles Patterson, diedshortlyafter he arrived at Betsy Johnson Memorial Hospital in Dunn. He was35 and lived in Portsmouth, Va.
Two others in the back seat were taken to the hospital.
Henry O'Toole, 43, of Chesapeake, Va., was airlifted to UNCHospitals in Chapel Hill, where he was listed in serious condition.Von Karl Freudenberg, 36, of Norfolk, Va., was listed in stablecondition at Betsy Johnson Memorial Hospital.
The four men were heading to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a golfingevent, according to the state Highway Patrol.
The motorists who rescued three of the four occupants of the car saythey actedwithout thinking and that they were acting on pure instinct.
Roy Lewis was driving the truck that hit the car. He says there wasnothing he could do to avoid the car.
Thomas Grooms, also a truck driver, saw what happened.
About a half-dozen people quickly converged in the inferno. Two ofthem grabbed fire extinguishers from their trucks. The motorists managedto pull three victims away from the flames, but the car became a fierytomb for a fourth man.
Motorist Canute Sewell says it was a dramatic scene.
The accident tied up trafficon I-95 south of Dunn for about four hours.
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