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Friends remember high school student killed by crash

Southern Nash High School students are mourning the loss of a classmate who died Saturday following a wreck near Rocky Mount.

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BAILEY, N.C. — Southern Nash High School students are mourning the loss of a classmate who died Saturday following a wreck near Rocky Mount.

Michael Turner Jr., 17, of Elm City, was driving a 1996 Chevrolet passenger car west on West Mount Drive around 7:15 a.m. when he ran a stop sign at Old Carriage Road, the state Highway Patrol said. His car was struck on the passenger side by a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban going at least 50 mph. Turner was pronounced dead at Nash General Hospital.

His friends gathered Sunday in the parking lot of Southern Nash High to remember Turner.

“He was out there to get friends and do well in school, and it's unreal that somebody so innocent can be taken from us,” Southern Nash student Bailee Stone said.

“We're not related, but I consider him to be the closest brother I've ever had,” Southern Nash student Brad Dickens said.

Turner's friends say he was one of the top students in his class and an Eagle Scout. He was on his way to take his SATs when the crash happened.

“He was smart. He did well in school. I always saw him studying,” Stone said.

Another memorial for Turner is planned Monday at the school.

“I told him stuff that I wouldn't tell anybody else. He's just one of those friends that if you lose him, you're never going to get him back,” Southern Nash student Eric Freeman said.

Troopers said the other driver involved in Turner's crash won't be charged.

Turner's visitation is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Wheeler and Woodlief Funeral Home, 1130 N. Winstead Ave. in Rocky Mount, officials said. His funeral will follow the visitation at 7 p.m.

Four high schoolers die from wrecks in a week

Turner was the fourth high school student to die from a wreck over the past week in central and eastern North Carolina.

On Wednesday, South Johnston High School sophomore Jessee Ferrell, 16, died in a wreck with his best friend's vehicle as they were headed to school.

Four days earlier, Hoke County High School seniors Kaleb Valliant, 18, of Aberdeen, and Thadius Markle, 18, of Raeford, died in a two-vehicle wreck in Fayetteville.

Wrecks are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the state, according to troopers. In the past four years, 682 teenagers have been killed in wrecks investigated by state Highway Patrol.

Half of the fatal wrecks occur on rural roads, and speed is the leading cause of the wrecks, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

Johnston County, in particular, has struggled with a highest rate of teen driving deaths. Nearly 40 teenagers have died there in the past five years – three so far this year, nine in 2009 and seven in 2008.

For the next two weeks, state troopers will be conducting extra patrols outside Johnston County schools. They will also teach high schoolers about traffic safety as part of the “Live to Drive, Drive to Live.”

"Our goal is to educate teenage drivers on the dangers of driving irresponsibly," commander Col. Randy Glover said in a statement. "The Highway Patrol is committed to saving teenage lives on our highways, and we will continue to look at various avenues to address this issue."

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Beau Minnick, Reporter
Greg Clark, Photographer
Minnie Bridgers, Web Editor

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