Local News

Former Fire Captain Charged with DWI in Triple Fatal Accident

Posted July 22, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— A former Chapel Hill fire captain has been charged with driving while impaired in a weekend car accident that killed three, including a veteran Carrboro fire captain.

Thomas Eugene ``Tommy'' Roberts, 45, died after the van he was riding in ran a stop sign and struck a car containing four elderly members of the same family, investigators said. Two passengers in the car, Milton Andrew Perkinson, 71, and his wife, Mary Ayscue Perkinson, 68, both of Henderson, were also killed.

The Orange County Firefighters Association has created a fund to help defray the costs of Capt. Roberts' funeral. Donations may be sent to Capt. Thomas Roberts Memorial Fund, Centura Bank, 300 Weaver St., Carrboro, NC, 27510

The accident happened Sunday afternoon near Lake Gaston on U.S. 158 bypass 4.7 miles east of Norlina.

Former Chapel Hill fire captain Billy Breeden, 44, was driving the van, and was charged with driving while impaired and running a stop sign, said Sgt. F.M. Lemmond of the N.C. Highway Patrol.

Breeden underwent emergency surgery in which his left arm was amputated. He remained in serious condition in intensive care Monday afternoon at Duke University Medical Center, Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones said.

Breeden's wife, Mary Ruth, suffered minor injuries and was expected to be released Monday from Duke Medical Center, Jones said. She was listed in good condition Monday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The driver of the car, Leon B. Perkinson, 73, of Durham, was also airlifted to Duke and was listed in critical condition Monday.

Perkinson's wife, Bess Ruppelt Perkinson, 69, was also badly injured. She was in good condition Monday at Duke.

Roberts has been with the Carrboro department for 22 years. Breeden worked for the Chapel Hill fire department for 20 years before retiring two years ago.

Breeden had just bought a cabin on Lake Gaston and Roberts had gone to help him work on it, Jones said.

The accident came just as Carrboro's 19-person fire department was trying to forget another tragedy. Capt. Robbie Crabtree was critically burned in May after falling into the basement of a burned home. He was released from the hospital last week but it's uncertain whether he'll ever be able to return to work.

From staff and wire reports Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.