NC viber killed by wrong way highway driver
by joatmon » Mon May 21, 2007 9:06 am http://www.charlotte.com/break....html
Wrong-way wreck kills 2 on I-485
Man drove around police barricade
Authorities tried to stop a wrong-way driver on Interstate 485 early Sunday, but the 20-year-old man drove around their barricade, traveled several more miles and then crashed into another car.
Both he and the other driver died. A passenger in the car that was hit remained hospitalized in critical condition Sunday.
The wreck was the third deadly wrong-way collision within the past two years on I-485. Last year state officials studied how to stop such deadly crashes after seven deaths in the region. The report did not pinpoint practical or affordable solutions.
In this latest case, authorities received a 911 call at 3:10 a.m. that a car was headed the wrong way on I-485 in south Charlotte, according to Observer news partner WCNC-TV. Demario Keonta Perry of Charlotte was going east in the westbound lanes.
Two Pineville police officers spotted the 1986 Chevrolet Impala as it passed Park Road Extension, according to WCNC, and were able to block the highway and stop Perry.
But before the officers could get out of their cars, N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. F.J. Hargro Jr. said, the driver wheeled onto the grassy shoulder and drove around them.
The Pineville officers couldn't follow him in the wrong lanes, Hargro said, so they headed east in the proper lanes. They flashed their blue lights, he said, in hopes of alerting westbound drivers.
They also contacted Matthews police, warning them that the wrong-way car was headed toward their town.
Two Matthews officers got into position where I-485 crosses Weddington and Pleasant Plains roads, said Matthews police Cpl. K.A. Greene.
She said they planned to throw down "stop sticks" that puncture tires if the wrong-way car approached. They also hoped to stop any westbound vehicles before they could get close.
"Unfortunately there was a motorist between us and them," Greene said.
A 2005 Pontiac Vibe heading west tried to swerve out of the way of the oncoming car, Trooper Derrick Freeman said.
But the two cars collided at 3:22 a.m., about half a mile west of the Providence Road exit -- and before Perry had reached the Matthews officers.
The Pineville officers saw the crash happen, Hargro said, and all of it was recorded on their patrol car cameras.
"I'm sure they felt rather defenseless," Hargro said.
Both Perry and the driver of the Vibe died at the scene. Authorities had not released his name Sunday.
The passenger in the Vibe, Cassandra Marie Lawrence, 20, was rushed to Carolinas Medical Center with broken legs and head injuries, Freeman said. The Charlotte resident remained in critical condition as of 11:20 p.m.
None wore their seat belts, Hargro said.
Investigators are awaiting toxicology reports from Perry's autopsy. They are also reconstructing the crash to determine how fast he was driving.
It's not clear where Perry got onto the wrong lanes of the highway -- or why he wouldn't stop, Hargro said.
Perry's family lives near where I-485 and Interstate 77 meet in southwest Charlotte. A woman who answered the phone at the home said the family was not ready to comment.
An August 2006 report found that only 162 of 100,000 freeway crashes between 2000 and 2005 in North Carolina were wrong-way collisions. Forty-four people were killed, but the relatively small number of crashes made it difficult for state officials to find patterns and solutions.
Meanwhile, Hargro said drivers staring down an oncoming vehicle have few options because of the short amount of time they have to react.
"We've got to stop it before even getting to that point," he said. "You've got to think a little broader and solve the core problem."