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Scene of fatal crash draws family members looking for solace and a safer highway

A Harnett County intersection where five people died has been the scene of at least five earlier fatal crashes, a neighbor says.

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COATS, N.C. — Neighbors say something needs to be done to keep drivers safe at a deadly intersection in Harnett County. Their call comes after five people died Friday night.

The accident happened at the intersection of Fairground Road and N.C. Highway 27 in Harnett County. Family members went to the roadside Monday to pay their respects and to call for action.

N.C. 27 is a noisy, two-lane road. Trucks roar past, day and night. It was at Fairground Road that a tractor-trailer hauling gasoline killed Rosa Chavez's brother-in-law.

She sprinkled holy water at the site, which is still sprinkled with debris, and hammered a cross into the ground.

"It's very difficult. There are a little bit of answers. Everything is so weird," Chavez said.

Her brother-in-law was in a Honda Accord with four other people. The state Highway Patrol says the driver ran through a stop sign, and the truck coming from Benson on N.C. 27, plowed into the car, killing everyone inside.

The driver of the truck was not seriously injured, and the driver of a third vehicle that was involved is now home from the hospital. The Highway Patrol said its investigation is still under way, but it doesn't appear alcohol was involved.

One of those killed was pregnant, Ashley Martinez, 17, and her death brought Seneca James to the scene Monday in hopes of getting more information about what happened.

“Ashley was my brother’s fiancé, and they were planning to get married,” she said.

Neighbor John Ennis said he has “seen lots of accidents here." He has lived by the crossroads since 1973.

Ennis said he remembers five fatal accidents at the same spot before the one Friday night. A hill on N.C. 27, he said, makes for a dangerous blind spot.

“I knew this was definitely another bad one,” he said. “I didn’t know it would be the worst one I’d seen at this intersection, but it was.”

"Looking over that hill is the biggest problem. People (on Fairground) cannot see traffic coming from Benson on 27," Ennis said.

On the side of the crossroads from which the Honda was coming, Fairground Road has a stop sign. On the other side of the intersection, however, Bailey Crossroads Road has two stop signs, a flashing red light, rumble strips, and another flashing light back around a bend to warn of the approaching highway.

The single stop sign is not enough for Chavez.

The intersection needs "lights, something – lights, four stops (signs). I don't know, something,” she said.

Ennis said an overhead caution light would be a good idea.

Trooper Greg Steffans of the Highway Patrol said the intersection does not have an unusually high number of accidents and is no more dangerous than many others.

Those who see the noisy two-lane every day are not convinced, however.