N.C. Highway Patrol officials do not believe speed or driver impairment were factors in Saturday’s fatal head-on collision that claimed the lives of two Midway High School graduates and a 5-year-old boy, a patrol spokesman said Monday.
The wreck reportedly occurred at 5:27 p.m. Saturday on Tew Road in northern Sampson County, not far from Baptist Chapel Road and about 7.6 miles from Falcon, according to reports from local N.C. Highway Patrol officials, who are still investigating the wreck. Two others were transported to Cape Fear Valley Health in Fayetteville to be treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Katie Lynne Lee, 21, of Christy Lane, Dunn, a 2013 Midway graduate and local dance instructor, was traveling on Tew Road away from Baptist Chapel Road, in the Godwin area of Sampson County. The collision occurred about two miles south of U.S 13. Lee was traveling south in a 2008 Nissan Altima when a 2007 Nissan Murano, a mid-size-SUV, crossed the center line traveling north toward Baptist Chapel, Highway Patrol First Sgt. David Kinlaw said.
The Murano was occupied by four people, Jason Nathanial Williams, 32, his wife Zulema Williams, 34, and their two children — 5-year-old Christopher and their 1-year-old daughter, whose name was not immediately available. Jason Williams and his young son, who was seated in the backseat, were pronounced dead at the scene along with Lee.
Williams, a Midway graduate of Tyn-Co Lane, Godwin, was a former Midway football player known as “Franchise.” Lee was attending Johnston Community College, while serving as a dance instructor for On Pointe Academy in Dunn. According to her obituary, “she had a love and passion for dance since age 3” and started teaching at the age of 14.
The family said, while flowers are welcomed, memorials may be made to the Katie Lynne Lee Dance Scholarship Fund, with checks payable to Donna Lee, 155 Christy Lane, Dunn, N.C. 28334.
The fatal wreck is being investigated by Trooper C.C. Hall, who went to Cape Fear in Fayetteville Saturday evening to speak with Zulema Williams, who survived the collision. Zulema had to go into surgery before she could talk with Hall in detail about what occurred and no further information was immediately available Monday.
Kinlaw said it was “too early” to speculate as to what, be it inattention or other factors, caused the SUV to cross the center line. He said the incident was still under investigation, and troopers were still in the “early stages” of that probe with information still forthcoming.
“The (SUV) passed the center line and into Lee’s path of travel,” Kinlaw noted. “We don’t know why yet.”
On Monday morning, State Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Jeff Gordon said speed and impairment were not believed to have been factors in the deadly collision.
“Neither speed or impairment appear to be contributing factors,” Gordon stated. “Both drivers were restrained and the child was in a child safety seat.”
Saturday’s wreck was the first wreck of 2016 resulting in multiple deaths. There have been seven fatal wrecks on Sampson County roadways claiming nine lives this year, compared with eight deaths in as many wrecks at this point in 2015. It was the deadliest incident in Sampson since four people, including three Harrells residents and a driver from Florida, died in a single-vehicle wreck on U.S. 701, just south of Garland, in September 2015.
Lee’s funeral will be held 11 a.m. Wednesday at Hood’s Grove Baptist Church in Newton Grove, where she was a member. Entombment will follow in the church cemetery. The family will receive friends at Rose & Graham Funeral Home in Benson from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday and other times at the home. Arrangements for Jason and Christopher Williams had not yet been announced by Hope Valley Hawkins in Clinton.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.