Local News

2 Die After Car Crashes in Cumberland County Pond

Posted April 8, 2008 9:17 a.m. EDT
Updated April 10, 2008 3:51 p.m. EDT

— Two people were killed early Tuesday when a driver lost control of a car and drove into a Cumberland County pond near the town of Wade, authorities said.

North Carolina Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Everett Clendenin said officers responded to the single-car accident about 5 a.m. on private property near construction for an expansion of Interstate 95. The site is about 500 yards off U.S. Highway 13 east of Interstate 95.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Joel Siles said crews recovered the car from about 15 feet of water. The driver, Stephen Andreas Loweke, 24, of Eastover, was found outside the car as if he were trying to escape, Siles said.

Robyn Lynn Cockrell, 22, of Wake Forest was identified as the other victim. She was in the passenger-side front seat.

A backseat passenger, Timothy Scott Letbetter, 23, of Wade, escaped the sinking car and reported the accident. Letbetter said the accident happened between 3:15 a.m. and 3:45 a.m.

Troopers said Loweke might not have seen the ground suddenly drop off toward the pond.

Letbetter's father said his son was in the back seat of the Honda Accord and jumped out as it hit the water. The car filled up so fast, he said, the two in the front seat had no time to escape.

Letbetter swam out to the car but it quickly sank, his father said. He returned home about two miles away and called 911.

It's still unclear why the three friends were in the area in the middle of the night, but investigators think alcohol might have been involved.

"Mr. Letbetter, the survivor, doesn't seem to really know, either," trooper Mike Chavis said. "He just remembers hitting water and water being on him and people screaming, 'Get out of the vehicle.'"

Phillip Cockrell said it was his daughter's birthday, and they had likely been out celebrating.

Cockrell said his daughter and Loweke were dating and had talked of getting married. The two had a son, who is 1½ years old.

"She was a fantastic girl," Cockrell said. "A sweet daughter, a great person."