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Family mourns 17-year-old killed in crash

The family of an East Wake High School student killed in a crash is trying to figure out what caused the 17-year-old to veer off the road.

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ZEBULON, N.C. — The family of an East Wake High School student killed in a crash is trying to figure out what caused the 17-year-old to veer off the road.
Patrick Michael McLaughlin Jr., 17, of Zebulon, was killed when the vehicle he was driving veered off U.S. 64, near Lizard Lick Road, and hit a guardrail around 5 p.m. Saturday, state troopers said. McLaughlin crossed back over to the right side of the road and hit a tree.

His grandfather said McLaughlin was on his way home from work when the fatal crash happened.

"I know grandmothers and grandfathers aren't supposed to have a favorite, but this was his grandmother's favorite and we have 15 grandchildren and he was one of them,” said Russell Lecaroz, victim's grandfather.

East Wake High School Principal Jamie Lynch said grief counselors will be at the school Monday to help students cope with McLaughlin's death.

“Patrick will be greatly missed. He was a good student and very involved with the school. We are devastated about his death," Lynch said in a statement.

Lecaroz said his grandson was one step away from becoming an Eagle Scout.

"He was a good kid," Lecaroz said.

Troopers are investigating what caused McLaughlin to veer off the highway. Speed and alcohol were not factors in the wreck, and McLaughlin was wearing his seatbelt, troopers said.

Over-correcting linked to many accidents

The state Highway Patrol has seen an increase in the teenage driving deaths they investigate this year, according to statistics.

Since January, at least 49 teens have been killed in crashes investigated by the Highway Patrol – up 22 percent from the year before, according to patrol spokesman Capt. Everett Clendenin.

Troopers said over-correcting is often a problem for young, inexperienced drivers.

The Highway Patrol considers reentering the highway an important maneuver. Troopers are brought to a special track on a regular basis just to practice for those types of situations.

The goal is to be able to help officers be able to keep that mindset when going off the road and function without panicking.

In theory, the recovery is basic: stay calm, decelerate, don't brake, then ease back onto the roadway.

"That is easier said then done. In the heat of the moment, things happen fast,” Trooper Calvin Harris said.

After recent teen traffic deaths, Jordan Driving School in Raleigh has started using videos and handouts to teach students about off-road recovery.


Geof Levine, Photographer
Minnie Bridgers, Web Editor

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