Accident Kills 2 in Johnston County
Posted July 30, 2007 10:46 p.m. EDT
Updated July 31, 2007 8:57 a.m. EDT
Willow Springs, N.C. — A car collided with a truck filled with hot asphalt on N.C. 210 in Johnston County, killing both drivers on Monday evening.
A half-mile stretch of N.C. 210 at N.C. 50 near McGee's Crossroads was closed for five hours after the accident, which occurred around 5 p.m.
During pouring rain, the driver of a blue Suzuki Aero traveling west on N.C. 210 ran off the side of the road, said police. The driver swerved back onto the highway and crossed the center line.
The Suzuki then crashed into a truck belonging to the state Department of Transportation that was traveling east, officials said.
Ellen Dunbar, who lives near the accident scene, said she saw the rain coming down and then heard a bang.
“As soon as I looked out the door, I saw a man in the yard, and I saw the wreckage, and we called 9-1-1 immediately,” said Dunbar.
The DOT driver was thrown from his truck, and the Suzuki was made unrecognizable by the accident, said investigators.
Both drivers were killed on the spot, officials said.
“It was probably the worst thing I’d ever seen,” said Dunbar.
Preliminary investigations show that the Suzuki car's rear tire had worn treads, which may have contributed to the accident in the rain.
Investigators said the wet pavement made it difficult for them to reconstruct the accident.
The DOT truck was also loaded with hot, liquid asphalt that could only be handled with difficulty. There was also a small diesil spill at the accident, said officials.
“We’re going to be here for a while,” said Nathan Burgess, assistant chief of the Johnston County Fire Department.
The difficulties in clean-up and investigation forced police and firefighters to keep N.C. 210 closed for five hours.
The closure caused initial traffic back-ups, but police re-routed traffic through the area.
Because a DOT employee was involved in the accident, NCDOT and the Department of Labor each will conduct separate internal investigations. DOT investigators will be on the scene at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, said officials.
Those investigations will determine if the DOT truck was in working condition, said officials.
Investigators said that the Suzuki driver was wearing a seat belt, but they are not sure if the truck driver was.
Neighbors gathered at the scene to help investigators and reflect on one of the deceased, Walter Lee Brothers, Jr., who lived a few miles up the road in Willow Spring.
Brothers served in the National Guard and was a father.
Carl Ray Collins, 56, of Wilson, was driving the DOT truck. He had worked for NC DOT for at least 15 years, said coworkers.
Coworkers said Collins was headed home from a job in Johnston County.
Neighbors said that they worry about the safety of the intersection, particularly in the rain.
“I’ve seen four or five wrecks in the same spot. They seem to hydroplane when it’s raining,” said Tom Nelms, who has lived in the area for five years.