A Lakewood student has been charged in a wreck that sent a vehicle careening into a yard off Hobbton Highway (U.S. 701) Thursday afternoon, striking six pedestrians who had gathered as part of an annual reunion, N.C. Highway Patrol authorities said.
The incident occurred around 3:30 p.m. in front of 2654 Hobbton Hwy., Clinton. Highway Patrol Trooper R.K. Williams said the chain reaction was set off when a 2002 Chrysler passenger car being driven south by Benjamin Marroquin, 18, of Patterson Lane, Salemburg, failed to reduce its speed and slammed into the right rear of a 2003 Buick being driven by Gloria Woodall, 61, of Holiday Lane, Newton Grove.
Woodall’s vehicle was barely moving at the time, as it was starting to turn left into the driveway of the residence where the gathering was taking place. Marroquin’s vehicle was traveling 55 mph, but had only started to brake mere moments away from the Buick, Williams said.
“He was braking right on top of the car,” the trooper said. “He was probably still going about 45 miles per hour at impact. He hit the brakes and swerved to the right, but there were very few skid marks. The front left of his car went right on her bumper. He pitted her and spun her out of control. There was nothing she could do.”
The impact sent the Buick toward the Hobbton Highway home, where it struck two parked vehicles, six people and then a tree before finally coming to rest. One of the pedestrians, Hepsie Armwood, 61, of Brewer Road, Faison, had to be airlifted to Chapel Hill to be treated for her injuries.
Five others also received non-life-threatening injuries and were treated and released. They are: Laquisha Oates, 12, of Jacobs Street, Clinton; Sadie Raynor, 69, of Gordon Road, Clinton; Annie Williams, 66, of Wynn Road, Clinton; Paul Davis, 72, of Linden, N.J.; and O’Dell Whitaker, 69, of Enoch Road, Clinton.
“It was a family get-together they have every year. They were out in the yard taking pictures,” Williams noted. “The (initial wreck) happened a good ways away from where they were standing.”
Williams estimated that the Buick traveled 202 feet after being struck, however Woodall was not seriously injured as a result. She, Marroquin and a passenger in the Chrysler received minor injuries. Williams did note some “broken bones” from those in the yard at the time and said several, including Woodall, would be getting X-rays and be further evaluated over the coming days.
“It’s unfortunate that six people were hit, but I’m glad no one was seriously injured and they will live to see another day,” the trooper said.
Marroquin has been charged with having no driver’s license, no insurance and failure to reduce speed. Williams said Marroquin’s driver’s license expired in September 2015. Other charges are also pending against the 18-year-old, identified as a senior at Lakewood High School.
“The District Attorney’s Office will be looking at it, so other charges are pending,” said Williams, who offered a frank assessment of the collision and the teenager’s role in it. “If you take him out of the equation, there is no wreck.”
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