GREENVILLE – A passenger in a Disabled American Veterans van from Rocky Mount was killed on N.C. 43 south of Falkland Wednesday after a car making an illegal pass caused a four-car wreck, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol.
The van from the Twin Counties 55 DAV Chapter in Rocky Mount was traveling north on the highway near Short Bridge Road when it collided with an SUV, according to Highway Patrol reports.
The van overturned in a ditch, and a male passenger was killed. The driver was transported to Vidant Medical Center. The names of the driver and passenger have not been released. No other people were injured.
The wreck occurred at 11:19 a.m., Sgt. Gary Weaver said at the scene.
A black vehicle that fled the scene was cresting a hill when it entered the southbound lanes to pass a northbound traffic, Weaver said. The car was in a no-passing zone.
A southbound Ford Expedition braked for the black vehicle, and a southbound Dodge Dakota hit the Ford from behind, Weaver said. The Ford spun into the northbound lane and hit the DAV van causing it to overturn in the ditch. The Ford then hit a Honda passenger car that was following the van.
The driver of the Honda was Najee Hanson, 19, a Pitt Community College student traveling home after class.
“I seen a gray or black car that was in front of me try to pass another car that was in front of me and traffic was coming,” Hanson said at the scene.
Hanson said he thought the car was a Toyota four-door, but he was not sure.
Next, he saw the white Ford Expedition out of control.
“I tried to slow down, but I couldn’t, so we ran into each other,” he said.
Hanson and another man ran to the van. Two people inside were alive and yelling for help, he said.
“I hear them screaming, ‘Help, help, we’re in pain,'" he said. The doors to the van would not open, he said. “We were helpless.”
He later learned the passenger had died.
“When I heard that, it made me appreciate life much more,” he said.
An alert has been issued for area law enforcement officers to be on the lookout for a black vehicle, though little else is known about it.
Witnesses are urged to call the Highway Patrol in the Greenville office at 252-752-6118.
“This wreck should have never, ever happened,” Weaver said.
The black car made an illegal pass, and other vehicles were following too closely, he said. The speed limit on that section of highway is 55 mph.
A man and woman were in the Ford. They were on the way to a doctor’s office in Greenville. One person was in the Honda and another was in the Dodge.
The DAV van was a transport vehicle. It was not known if it had been traveling from the Veterans Clinic in Greenville.
“It’s sad any time someone loses a life in a collision,” Weaver said. “Someone didn’t use good sense in passing.”
Editor's note: This story has been updated to add new details and correct the location of the accident.