Local News

High-Speed Wreck Claims Soldier's Wife, Injures Him Critically

Posted March 13, 2008 6:07 p.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2008 10:36 a.m. EDT

— Hours after a Fort Bragg soldier returned from Iraq, he was involved in a wreck that killed his wife and left him critically injured, authorities said.

Chief Warrant Officer James Dunn, 36, was driving along Nursery Road north of Spring Lake at about 10:40 a.m. Wednesday when his 2006 Nissan convertible skidded on a curve and slammed into a stand of pine trees, said 1st Sgt. Tim Baldwin, of the state Highway Patrol.

Baldwin estimated that Dunn was traveling at 100 mph before the wreck, which splintered some of the trees and left wreckage strewn along the side of the road.

Gretchen Dunn, 36, wasn't wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car. She died at the scene.

Rescue personnel spent 20 minutes trying to free James Dunn, who was wearing a seat beat, from the wreckage. One of his legs was crushed and had to be amputated, and he could lose his other leg as well, Baldwin said.

He was in critical condition Thursday at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and was put into a coma to help his chances of recovery, Baldwin said.

Dunn, an intelligence analyst in Special Operations, had returned to Fort Bragg Tuesday night from a three-month deployment in Iraq.

The Dunns, who grew up together in Mechanic Falls, Maine, and had been married for 16 years, moved with their 13-year-old son to Fort Bragg from Washington, D.C., almost a year ago, Baldwin said. After the wreck, the boy went to stay with his grandparents in Maine, he said.

Relatives declined to comment Thursday, but they told Baldwin that Gretchen Dunn, a real estate agent, was "religious" about wearing her seat belt.

Troopers are trying to determine why James Dunn was driving so fast, Baldwin said. Dunn had a clean driving record, and no drugs or alcohol were involved, he said.

Dunn could be charged with involuntary manslaughter and other offenses in connection with the wreck, Baldwin said.