Local News

Driver arrested for Aberdeen wreck turned death-defying ride

Posted July 30, 2011 6:53 p.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2011 4:42 p.m. EDT

— A Southern Pines man was recovering from a strained back Saturday after a fender bender led to a wild ride through Moore County on the hood of a suspected hit-and-run driver's car.

"All I really remember is a little kid looking out the window with (his) mouth hanging open, like, 'Momma, there's a guy on the hood of that car," said David Francis, adding that he held on to the windshield wipers of the other driver's car for about two miles.

"It (was) just a minor fender bender; I don't know what else he had on his agenda or background that was so important not to be found, but look at what he's facing now," Francis said.

Police charged 47-year-old Michael Patrick Dowdle Monday with assault on an officer resulting in serious injury, careless and reckless driving, driving while impaired, fleeing to elude arrest with a motor vehicle, resisting a public officer, no operator's license and speeding.

Francis' death-defying ride started shortly after 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Just minutes after renting a car from Rent-A-Wreck in Aberdeen, Francis, 59, said he was rear-ended at the intersection of U.S. Highway 1 and Poplar Street.

"My heart was pounding and all that good stuff," he said.

When he got out and approached the other car to exchange insurance information and file a report, Francis said that he could smell alcohol and that Dowdle seemed hurried to leave the scene.

Francis said Dowdle told him his wife was in the hospital, then that his grandmother was in the hospital. He said Dowdle even offered him $100,000 to let him leave the scene. 

But suddenly, Francis said, Dowdle just hit the gas.

"He saw an opening in traffic. Traffic was starting to move, so he decided to take off," Francis said. 

"When he hit me in the shins, I fell forward and just grabbed (on)," he said. "That's how I rode to Southern Pines."

Francis said he kept yelling for Dowdle, who was driving about 45 mph, to stop the car.

"I wasn't going to get off until the guy stopped because I didn't know if the guy would run over me or not," Francis said.

A Southern Pines police officer saw Francis on the hood of the car and pulled Dowdle over on South Bennett Road.

"When he did that, I just let go and rolled off," Francis said.

But Dowdle hit the gas again, police said, striking the officer in the leg and leading police on a chase that involved the Moore County Sheriff's Office and the state Highway Patrol. Troopers used a tire deflation device, causing Dowdle to crash on Midland Road in Pinehurst, near the entrance to Midland Country Club.

Dowdle was being held in the Moore County Jail under $61,000 secured bond. He was convicted on a worthless check charge earlier this month, according to Department of Correction records. He is currently on probation.

Francis said he recently retired from a 28-year career with the National Guard, during which he served a tour of duty in Iraq. After surviving all of that, he said, he didn't expect that a minor fender bender could turn so dangerous.

"I'll be 60 next week, and it was not my plan to ride two miles up the highway on the front of (a) car at highway speed," he said.