Local News

Northern High senior called smiling peacemaker

Posted December 11, 2008 8:31 a.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2008 8:31 p.m. EST

— A Northern High School senior died in a three-vehicle crash at Milton and North Roxboro roads on his way to school Thursday morning.

Anthony Devon Pegram, 17, was a passenger in a 1998 Mitsubishi driven north on North Roxboro by John Thomas Bass II, also 17, around 7 a.m., Durham police said.

Bass tried to turn left onto Milton Road when a southbound 1997 Dodge van hit the passenger side of his car, police said. The Mitsubishi spun around and hit the front of a 2004 Ford pickup truck, driven by Orsby Wesley McMillan, of Durham.

Pegram died at the scene. Emergency crews took Bass to Duke University Hospital, and he was expected to recover fully.

The driver of the van, Bobby Jean Holmes, of Raleigh, was treated at the scene for minor injuries, and McMillan and his wife, who was a passenger, were uninjured, police said.

Police said that Holmes had a green light. The van is owned by Experience Taxi and Wheelchair Service, which is licensed in Raleigh.

Police had not filed any charges but were continuing to investigate the wreck.

Holmes told WRAL News that she didn't have time to react when the Mitsubishi pulled out in front of her. She said she feels very badly for Pegram's family.

The students' coach asked for people to support Bass through their grief.

"He's got bumps and bruises here and there, and he's very, very sore, very tender," Anthony Sullivan, Northern's head football coach, said. "But more than anything, he's got a sore heart."

Students, faculty mourn smiling 'peacemaker'

Word of the crash and Pegram's death spread quickly through Northern High School. In the rain, students gathered in the parking lot and comforted each other, crying and hugging.

Emergency medical officials said one student was so overcome he had to be treated inside the school and escorted out.

Student Holden Wright was sitting in class when he found out about his friend's death.

"(Principal John Colclough) called on the intercom and said that Anthony had been killed," Wright said. "It's just sad. It's terrible. Everybody knew him because he was such a good guy."

Counselors descended on the school to help grieving students, and the school allowed students to leave early, if they wished.

Coaches and students remembered Pegram as a smiling, happy young man at the heart of the school's football family. He played at No. 84 as a receiver.

"You can't say it enough: He smiled all the time, and to the point where people didn't always know when he was serious and when he was joking around," Sullivan said.

"He could be serious and funny anytime, but he was really serious about football. He was a good football player," Wright said.

Pegram's principal said that only a day before, he had put his arm around the student as he thanked him for helping defuse a confrontation.

"Anthony was one of those folks that would always give you the the smile. But he would also enter himself into a situation that was tense and try to be the peacemaker," Principal John Colclough said.

"That's the difficult part when you see an opportunity taken away – a student that was going to be a success."