Three die in highway crashes around eastern Wake

amoody@newsobserver.com, aspecht@newsobserver.comMay 11, 2013 

 

— Three people died during the rainy afternoon Monday in two separate vehicle wrecks that took place within a few miles of each other on the same stretch of pavement.

The accidents took place within four hours of one another and about 12 miles apart on overlapping highways – the first on U.S. 264 in Nash County, just east of Zebulon, and the second between Knightdale and Wendell on U.S. 64/264.

Highway Patrol spokesman Jeff Gordon said Monday that Raleigh resident Chauncy Adrian Freeman, 60, died after being involved in the three-vehicle accident near Zebulon.

Freeman was driving a 2009 Hyundai east on U.S. 264 near the Wake County line just after 1 p.m. and crossed across the median into the westbound lanes.

“There wasn’t a guard rail – it was an 80-foot median,” said Trooper Jason Moore, who investigated the crash. “(Freeman) crossed it and drove straight over into oncoming traffic.”

Driving head-on into the westbound lanes, the Hyundai collided with a tractor-trailer driven by Ronnie Taylor, 56, of Fountain.

The impact of that collision caused the truck driven by Taylor to collide with another tractor-trailer, driven by Salim Otajagic, 36, of St. Louis.

Both big rigs traveled off the right shoulder and came to rest along the tree line. Taylor and Otajagic sustained minor injuries as a result of the incident, according to Gordon.

Moore on Tuesday said it was raining at the time of the accident, but rain was not the suspected cause of the accident.

“It could have been he had a medical condition and went unconscious,” Moore said. “We’re not 100 percent certain on that, but that’s what we feel could have contributed to him crossing the median.”

Robert Feemster, a truck driver for Gemaire Distributors in Raleigh, was traveling east toward Wilson when he pulled over near the accident to offer help.

“I must have got there right after it happened,” Feemster said. “Smoke was in the air ... so I went to ask (bystanders) if they needed a fire extinguisher.”

Emergency response teams had not yet arrived when Feemster walked over to the scene. One of the drivers had been partially ejected from the car, Feemster said.

“I see accidents all the time on the road, but I never stopped,” he said. “This was the first time I stopped. To be honest, I wish I never stopped and seen what I seen. I have never seen anything like that in my entire life.”

The westbound lanes of U.S. 264 were closed until around 7 p.m.

More carnage

Less than four hours later, two more people were killed in an accident that shut down westbound U.S. 64/264 between Knightdale and Wendell for several hours.

Roxanne Swanner, 21, and Santez Keys, 29, both of Washington, N.C., died at the scene after their car struck a vehicle Swanner was trying to pass, spun out of control and was then hit by a tractor-trailer rig. Gordon said the accident happened near Wendell Falls Parkway around 4:30 p.m.

Swanner’s 2000 Honda Civic attempted to pass and struck a 2008 Chevrolet Aveo driven by Cealous Conyers, 72, of Raleigh.

When the Honda careened sideways into the far left lane, it was struck a tractor-trailer rig driven by David Dunlap, 42, of Wilcox, Arizona.

Conyers and Dunlap were not injured.

State Highway Patrol Sgt. Kevin Shallington said Tuesday it was not clear if Monday’s weather conditions played a role in the accident on U.S. 64/264.

“It was heavy rain when they wrecked, but I can’t say definitely that was a contributing factor when they wrecked,” Shallington said.

Gordon said it appears alcohol was not involved in either vehicle accident.

Moody: 919-829-4806

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