Joseph Michael Ellis, 21, of 3513 Auburn-Knightdale Road, Raleigh, was driving a Jeep Wrangler south on Government Road around 3:30 a.m., state troopers said. He ran off the right side of the road, near Barber Mill Road.
Ellis over-corrected, troopers said, and the Jeep crossed the center line and went off the left side of the road. The Jeep struck a mailbox, and Ellis again over-corrected, causing the Jeep to overturn.
Ellis was killed in the wreck, troopers said.
His passenger, whose name was not released, was taken to WakeMed. Troopers could not give an update on the passenger's condition.
Alcohol was a factor in the wreck, troopers said. Family members said they think Ellis fell asleep at the wheel. He and his passenger attended the Triangle Beach Music Festival in Garner earlier Saturday, relatives said.
Ellis – who went by Joe – graduated from Enloe and studied construction management as a junior at East Carolina University. He roomed with his 23-year-old brother, Josh, for the past three years.
"He was a son any parent would be proud to have," his father, former Republican Rep. Sam Ellis, 52, said.
"He had an extreme love of his family and would always end every conversation with each member of his family by saying, 'I love you,'" his mother, Cindy, 50, said.
Relatives remembered Ellis as a fun-loving, smiling man who could never have too many friends. He had a gang of cousins he spent much of his summers and holidays with.
Ellis had an entrepreneurial spirit and and worked for his father's company, Ellis Transportation Solutions, family members said. He planned to intern with Edwards, Inc., an industrial contractor in Greenville, this summer.
He is also survived by brothers Jason and Josh; his grandmothers, Betty Hickman and Vivian Smith; and numerous cousins.
Sam Ellis represented Wake County in the General Assembly for more than a decade. Linda Coleman defeated him in the 2004 election.