Local News

Benson teen dies in wreck with 'best friend'

Posted November 1, 2008 7:31 a.m. EDT
Updated November 2, 2008 1:33 p.m. EST

— A Johnston County teenager died Friday night after the pickup truck he was riding in with his best friend crashed around 9 p.m.

Steven "Drew" Smith, 17, and Dennis Dewitt, also 17, were on their way to a turkey shoot organized by a local church, according to Smith's relatives.

Dewitt was driving east on Zacks Mill Road, near N.C. Highway 50, when he drove off the road, over-corrected and rolled the truck about four times, according to authorities.

Smith died at the scene, troopers said. Emergency medical crews took Dewitt to WakeMed, where he was treated and released.

Troopers said that speed was a factor in the crash and that Smith was wearing his seat belt. No charges had been filed by Sunday.

The wreck happened about half a mile from the house where Smith lived with his parents, Ron and Lisa, at 3315 Zacks Mill Road.

Dewitt, with his arm in a sling, went to Smith’s home early Saturday to apologize. The Smiths told WRAL they have no hard feelings against Dewitt, but say it will be hard to live life without their son.

Military dreams

Smith's family members spoke with WRAL Saturday and said that Smith and Dewitt were "best friends." Smith wanted to go into the military. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and working on cars.

Smith also spent much of his time helping his mother who has multiple sclerosis and is in a wheelchair, according to family members.

Smith's wake will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Friendly Chapel Church, 11455 N.C. 50 North in Benson. His funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at the church.

In lieu of flowers, family members ask that donations be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Johnston County battling teen deaths

Smith's death adds to the already long list of Johnston County teens who have died in car crashes. Eleven students died in 2007, plus several more this year.

Smithfield leaders recently unveiled the "Alive at 25" program to offer free defensive driving courses to county teens.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, and Johnston County is leading the state in those numbers.

"Due to the high number of teenage fatalities on the roadways we have to do something," said Smithfield Mayor Norman Johnson.

"Alive at 25" is a four-hour class open to Johnston County residents ages 16 to 19 years old. The first class will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 6. Teens or their parents should call the Town of Smithfield at 919-934-2116 to sign up for the class.

The county plans to hold more classes since so many teens have signed up for the program.