Fatalities spike in 2015

By Chris Berendt - cberendt@civitasmedia.com

Highway deaths in Sampson County rose in 2015, nearly tripling the amount in all of 2014 and including one of the deadliest wrecks in recent years, according to statistics compiled by local N.C. Highway Patrol authorities.

There were 24 fatalities through the middle of November, and that number stayed the same through a usually busy enforcement over the holidays, which regularly see more motorists on Sampson’s main thoroughfares but are also the times of the heaviest patrols.

“We didn’t have any fatalities over the holiday weekend, so our enforcement paid off,” said First Sgt. David Kinlaw of the Highway Patrol in Sampson following Thanksgiving. He reiterated that point Monday, saying the same rang true regarding Christmas and New Year’s, during which no deaths occurred, closing out the 2015 with the second-longest period of time in Sampson County without a fatality during 2015.

“It was pretty quiet over the holidays,” Kinlaw stated Monday.

Between April 22 and July 3, there were no fatalities in Sampson. Outside of that time and a period between Jan. 2- Feb. 11, Sampson never went more than a couple weeks without a death on its roadways.

The final fatal collision was Tierra Y. Jacobs, 24, of Clinton, who was killed Nov. 17 in a head-on wreck and subsequent pile-up on N.C. 24. That added to a staggering death total on Sampson County’s roadways in 2015. Highway Patrol troopers in Sampson investigated 24 deaths on local roads this year, far exceeding the nine fatalities investigated all of last year. It was the second fatal collision in as many days in the county, and the third in November.

However, November was not even the deadliest month in 2015, as five people were killed in four wrecks in July. Another four lives were claimed in a single wreck in the southern end of Sampson County at the end of September. There were three fatal wrecks apiece in April and August.

The nine fatalities in 2014 included six drivers and three passengers ranging in age between 20 and 70, with six falling in the range of 53-65. Four of those deadly wrecks involved alcohol, and two took place on I-40. There were only two months in 2014 that had multiple fatalities — March and September, which had two apiece.

That was in stark contrast to 2015, in which 15 drivers, six passengers and three pedestrians were killed. Alcohol and drug use was reportedly involved in nine of those deadly incidents.

The deadliest wreck in Sampson in recent memory occurred in September 2015, believed to have involved alcohol. The fatal one-car collision occurred in the early-morning hours south of Garland when a vehicle ran off the roadway on U.S. 701, over-corrected and flipped before striking a tree — three Harrells residents and a driver from Florida were killed as a result.

While the age range of wreck victims was fairly narrow in 2014, those whose lives were claimed on local roadways in 2015 ranged from 83-year-old Johnny Williams Jr., who was killed in a single-vehicle accident New Year’s Day on N.C. 41, to 4-year-old Cayden Perez, a passenger in a car that ran off the roadway on N.C. 55 on the Fourth of July.

Kinlaw and others have stressed the importance of adhering to all motor vehicle laws and posted signs in order to cut into the number of major collisions. Other than alcohol use, inattention was a primary factor in six deaths, while failing to yield the right of way, careless and reckless driving and left of center were also cited as main reasons for a number of the deadly collisions.

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

By Chris Berendt


Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

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