A Clinton woman was killed and her husband and daughter airlifted following a three-vehicle wreck on U.S. 421 that also injured two other local residents, one of whom was also airlifted for his injuries. Troopers described the wreck, which closed down the road for hours, as a “horrific scene.”
The deadly collision occurred at 4:40 p.m. Thursday on U.S. 421 (Taylors Bridge Highway), about 5.4 miles south of Clinton, roughly half a mile south of Beaman Woods Road.
The multi-vehicle wreck claimed the life of Vicki Bullard Bass, 67, who was a front passenger in a 2016 Honda Pilot being driven by her husband, Michael “Mike” Bass, also 67. Their daughter Kristy was in the back seat of the vehicle. The family was not far from their home, located on Taylors Bridge Highway, when the wreck occurred.
The Honda Pilot was traveling south on U.S. 421 when it traveled across the center line and struck a 2008 Ford Taurus being driven north by Rodney Jacob Lewis, 38, of Hobbton Highway, Clinton.
Highway Patrol Sgt. S.F. Cotton said it was a head-on collision, with the front left quarter panels of each vehicle colliding. Cotton said Lewis saw the Honda coming into his lane of travel and attempted to avoid the collision, veering to the right but was still hit. After the collision, the Ford ran off the right side of the roadway and struck a ditch. The Honda went out of control after impact and began to overturn in the road, when it sustained a second impact from a 2011 Buick Enclave being driven north by Melissa Robinson Bass, 34, of Reedsford Road, Clinton.
“(The Honda) overturned into the path of the (Buick); it was in the process of flipping,” said Cotton. “She couldn’t react. It was just that quick.”
The second impact was to the Honda’s hood and front windshield area. The Honda ended up on its driver’s side in the middle of the road, the Buick nearby, having sustained a full front impact. Cotton called it a “horrific scene.”
Vicki was pronounced dead at the scene. Mike and Kristy were airlifted to WakeMed, where Mike reportedly remained in critical condition while Kristy was showing signs of improvement and underwent surgery on Friday. Neither Lewis nor Melissa Bass had passengers in their vehicles. Lewis was airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Melissa Bass was transported by rescue personnel to Sampson Regional Medical Center to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries, according to reports.
Cotton said Lewis sustained severe injuries to his arm. He underwent a first surgery and was scheduled for another on Saturday. Melissa Bass had injuries to her hands and legs, but was able to climb out of the sunroof of her vehicle.
Everybody was wearing seat belts, with the possible exception of Kristy Bass, Cotton noted. She said the investigation is continuing and it is unclear what actually caused the Honda to cross the center line. There was no speeding or impairment that factored in the wreck, but inattention likely is a contributing factor.
“For some reason, it crossed the center line,” the Highway Patrol sergeant said. “We may not ever know why. It’s still under investigation. We just feel sorry for everybody involved. They were all from Clinton and staples in the community. Our hearts go out to everybody, especially the Bass family, and we hope everyone can recover from this.”
A farmer by trade, Mike Bass was a longtime member of the Sampson County Board of Education and its chairman in 1990s. Vicki worked at Union Elementary School until her retirement. Lewis and Melissa Bass are also well-known in the community.
Cotton expressed her thanks to the Taylors Bridge and Clinton fire departments, along with Sampson County EMS and the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, which rerouted traffic while emergency responders were on the scene. It took four hours before the roadway was reopened to traffic, during which some trucks unable to turn around were left to wait.
Vicki Bass is the 11th person claimed in highway deaths in Sampson this year, compared to 20 deaths at this point in 2016.
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