Traffic

Good Samaritan seriously injured in I-40 wreck

Posted March 19, 2010 5:10 a.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2010 5:23 p.m. EDT

— A man who stopped to help after a wreck on Interstate 40 was seriously injured when another vehicle hit him Friday morning, Durham police said.

The first wreck, which occurred around 4 a.m., involved a car and a truck in the left lanes of I-40 East, near the exit to Interstate 540, at the Durham-Wake county line.

According to witnesses, a man stopped his WCA Waste Corporation truck and got out. WCA representatives identified the man as Chris Crowell. As he walked along the highway, driver June Howard hit him.

"He had parked his truck and was going to run back there and check on them. All of a sudden, I see him in front of me," Howard said. 

Howard said he swerved but could not avoid hitting Crowell, who was struck by the vehicle's side-view mirror and fender.

WRAL producer Carol Watson, who was driving behind Howard and also stopped, said Crowell told her that he was walking on the side of the interstate toward the first wreck.

"He told me he was going to check on that wreck to see if anybody needed him to call 911," she said.

Police said Crowell underwent surgery at Duke University Hospital for injuries that included a broken leg and severe internal bleeding. Hospital officials said Crowell was in critical condition Friday afternoon.

Another person was injured in the initial collision. The unidentified person, whose injuries authorities described as non-life-threatening, was taken to an area hospital.

Police reconstructed the wrecks Friday but have not decided whether to file charges.

Howard expressed remorse and conveyed his prayers that Crowell would pull through. 

"As soon as I could park ... I ran back to see him," Howard said. "I feel bad, sure I do. Anybody would that hurt somebody."

"He is a nice young man and was trying to help somebody else," Watson said.

In the past decade, 73 collisions involving people who had stopped to help after a wreck occurred in North Carolina, and 21 of those good Samaritans were killed, according to the state Department of Transportation.

State troopers said no law requires people to stop if they were not involved in a wreck, but most people will experience an instinct to help.

"You don't think about it," Watson said.

Troopers urged people who stop to help after a wreck to be careful.

"The No. 1 thing when you do arrive on the scene is safety for yourself, and then provide assistance if it can be done safely without injuring yourself or others," Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Jeff Gordon said.

"Just be cautious, and just kind of stop and think and take a deep breath before you act."