Local News

Woman killed when car crashes into Wendell creek

Posted January 8, 2018 12:15 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 9:56 a.m. EDT

— Authorities said they suspect speed was a factor in an early morning crash in which a woman was killed after her car left the road and crashed down an embankment before landing in a Wake County creek.

Maria Prieto, 23, of Wendell, died at the scene. She lived around the corner from where the fatal crash occurred, authorities said.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Highway Patrol said the crash likely occurred before dawn, but no one noticed the wreckage until a call for help was made shortly after 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Video recorded from Sky5 showed a red Nissan Altima resting upside down in the frigid creek water while rescue crews chipped away at ice to reach the victim. According to officials, it appears the car went off the road and overturned before sliding across the frozen pond and hitting a tree. The vehicle was submerged in the creek, which is located on Robertson Pond Road.

About 1.5 miles of the road was blocked near Wendell High School as crews worked to retrieve the vehicle.

Nearby residents said the cold weather and recent snowfall made driving on the road treacherous.

"It was a pure sheet of ice," said Patrick Bell, who lives on Robertson Pond Road.

He said the road was dangerously slick when he drove his son to school at around 7:30 a.m. Monday.

Tire tracks from Prieto's vehicle were visible in the snow before it crashed down the embankment and into the creek. When the car was pulled from the water, it was dented, shattered and virtually destroyed.

Residents said they fear that ice left from last week's winter storm played a role in the fatal crash.

A woman who lives in the area and who asked for anonymity said the roads have appeared untouched since the snow fell.

"I've not seen the first plow," she said.

A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation said crews don't plow roads unless there is an inch or more of snow, but noted that if the road had not been plowed, salt would have been put down to help melt ice.