GARLAND — The deaths of four people in a single-vehicle wreck in southern Sampson County, including three Harrells residents and a driver from Florida, highlight a particularly tragic year on local roadways.
On Monday, the N.C. State Highway Patrol released the names of those involved in the fatal one-car collision, which occurred at approximately 3:15 a.m. Sunday on U.S. 701, just south of Garland. The wrecked happened in Sampson County, near the Bladen County line.
According to Highway Patrol investigators, Karl Lamont Jones, 54, of 513 Carroll Ave., Lakeland, Fla., was driving south in a white 2006 Toyota pickup truck occupied by five others when the pickup ran off the right shoulder and overturned, before striking a tree. Four of the occupants, including Jones, died and two others were seriously injured, reports state.
The five passengers were all of the same 9409-A Sleepy Creek Drive, Harrells, address, Highway Patrol authorities said.
Three of the rear passengers, Melquiades Ramirez, 24, Ricardo Ramirez, 21, and Luis Felipe Rocha Madrigal, 24, were all killed in the wreck. The right front passenger, Rachel Gaulk, 29, and a fourth rear passenger, Victor Manuel Lobaton Mendoza, 24, were both transported to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville to be treated with what were termed “serious injuries.” Their condition was not immediately known Monday.
Highway Patrol investigators said that, while cell phone use was not a factor in the wreck, “it is believed there was alcohol involvement.” Local investigators were still compiling the final report as of Monday, so an estimate of the traveling speed was not yet available, however they said there were no seat belts being worn inside the pickup when it wrecked.
Local statistics show that Sunday’s horrific accident brings the total number of deaths on Sampson County roadways in 2015 to 20, more than double the total investigated by the patrol all of last year.
Barely three-quarters of the way through 2015, Highway Patrol troopers in Sampson County have already investigated 16 deadly wrecks that have resulted in 20 deaths, local records show. There was just one other wreck this year resulting in multiple fatalities, a July 10 collision that claimed two lives. Just seven deadly wrecks were investigated to this same point last year, nine total — claiming nine lives — in all of 2014.
Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.