Monday, March 12, 2012 11:16 PM
Details, video footage released in fatal wreck
Woman died after pulling car in front of trooper's vehicle, witness speaks out
By Jon Jimison | Times Editor
The N.C. Highway Patrol has released dashcam video and the collision report in a fatal wreck in Rocky Mount last week involving a Highway Patrol trooper.
Two witness statements indicated the trooper couldn’t have avoided the March 6 collision, which resulted in the death of a Rocky Mount woman, Maurilia Solis Leon, 59.
The incident occurred on U.S. 301 North at 11:05 p.m.
While the investigation hasn’t been concluded, Leon’s failure to yield the right of way has been noted as the reason for the fatal collision, officials said.
"If she had it would not have occurred,” said First Sgt. Jeff Gordon of the Highway Patrol.
The collision report did indicate the trooper, identified as A.S. Samuel, was exceeding the speed limit by driving 53 in a 45 mph zone. Gordon noted this is not saying it’s the reason for the collision.
The patrol vehicle was traveling north on U.S. 301, a multi-lane highway, officials said. A 2002 Dodge Stratus, driven by Leon, entered the roadway from the Golden Corral directly into the path of the trooper’s vehicle.
The video shows the Stratus slowing down almost to a stop and then moving very slowly. Samuel attempted to steer to the left to avoid colliding with the vehicle but struck the driver’s door, officials said.
While Leon died, the trooper sustained non-life threatening injuries. Both were transported to Nash General Hospital.
Tiffany Blue won’t soon forget that night.
Blue, from Enfield, was traveling with relatives through that area and witnessed the wreck.
Blue said it appeared Leon was leaving work.
"There was no way he (Trooper Samuel) could have avoided it,” Blue said in an interview with The Wilson Times. "It just happened so fast.”
She said visibility wasn’t great in the area either.
"It was sitting there,” Blue said of Leon’s vehicle. "My cousin said, ‘Hurry, look, look, look.’”
Blue was about 6 to 8 feet away from the incident, she said.
"I guess she was trying to move up, but it happened too fast,” Blue said.
She said if the trooper had tried to avoid the wreck any further she fears she and her relatives could have been involved in the incident.
The report says both drivers were wearing seat belts. Leon’s airbags did not deploy. Weather was not noted as a factor as the conditions were dry.
Samuel was placed on administrative duty by procedure as the investigation is conducted. As of Monday afternoon, he remained on administrative duty, Gordon said.
Gordon said officials are still looking into this wreck and the video and collision report are parts of the investigation.
But Gordon said the dashcam video corroborates that officials believe the wreck was unavoidable on the part of Samuel.
"We’re still reviewing the collision itself,” Gordon said.
The collision report says Leon’s car was traveling west from the Golden Corral, crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. 301.
Samuel’s vehicle was traveling north on U.S. 301. Leon’s car entered the roadway and pulled into the path of Samuel. Samuel swerved left to avoid Leon’s vehicle, the report said.
They collided in the northbound lane of U.S. 301.
After impact, Leon’s vehicle spun around in the roadway and came to rest facing east on U.S. 301. Samuel’s vehicle ran off the left side of the roadway into the median, where it came to rest facing north.
No charges have been filed, according to the report.
©The Wilson Times, Wilson, North Carolina.
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