SPENCER — Police say they do not yet know what caused a small SUV to go out of control Friday night on South Rowan Avenue and smash into a tree, killing five of the nine people inside.
Initial reports put the number of dead at four. Today, Spencer Police said five died, and they released the victims’ names.
Dead are driver Angela Dunlap, 28, of South Yadkin Avenue, and her daughter, Da’Ja Cathcart, 10.
Also dead are adult Sean Javan Jacobs and Karizma Nichole Sexton, both of 911 N. Jackson St., Salisbury; and adult Vincent Eugene McNeal of 915 N. Jackson St., Salisbury.
Jacobs was the only person in the vehicle wearing a seat belt.
Four children survived the crash. Three of them — Taliah Williams, Davion Williams and Javion Williams — remain hospitalized at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, Spencer Police Chief Michael James said in a statement.
The other survivor, Charles Z. Patrick, 10, of 917 N. Jackson St., Salisbury, was treated for minor injuries. Spencer Police describe Charles as a “real trooper” and commend him for being such a strong and brave young man, the statement said.
James said contrary to rumors on social media sites, the vehicle was not involved in a chase with police. The GMC Envoy struck a tree and caught on fire near 11th Street.
Salisbury Police wreck reconstructionists are helping with the investigation.
Spencer Police Sgt. M.N. Brigman said investigators could determine the cause this afternoon or even Monday.
Brigman, along with Officer Steve Bard and Officer James Cayer, responded to the scene the night of the crash. Officer Cayer is the primary investigating officer.
Even as police tried to put together what happened, the father of one of the young victims visited the scene and talked about his daughter.
Kentrell “Kenny” Cathcart of Salisbury received a phone call at work Friday about the single-car crash, which claimed the life of his daughter, Da’Ja, and her mother, Angela Dunlap.
He returned Saturday morning to the narrow stretch of road where the crash occurred. With him were his fiancee, Carol Hancock; his mother, Catherine Cathcart; his sister Verlishia Cathcart; and his other sister, Ashley Cathcart.
Someone had already left several stuffed animals propped against a tree. Pieces of broken glass and other debris from the vehicle were on the side of the road.
The family stood together, occasionally accepting condolences from strangers and other passersby.
“I appreciate it. I already knew she was well loved,” Kentrell said.
Da’Ja, whose nickname was “Day Day,” was a fifth-grader at North Rowan Elementary.
“She was a real nice, bright, young lady,” he said.
The oldest of his three children, Da’Ja always had a smile, Kentrell said.
He the other children in the crash were related to Angela and his daughter.
“God blessed us with 10 beautiful years. She had a beautiful smile that’s really going to be missed. She’s an angel,” Catherine Cathcart said.
The young girl loved dogs, the family said.
The last time she saw Angela was Thursday, Catherine recalled, and Da’Ja spent the night with her the weekend before the Christmas holiday.
Kentrell said he last saw his daughter on Sunday.
“She was loved. Everybody loved her,” Hancock said.
“We just loved her,” Verlishia said.
“We will miss her,” Ashley said.
Kentrell was alerted about the crash by his fiancee. Hancock drove to Kentrell’s job at Hitachi Metals around midnight and told him there had been a car accident involving Angela. She said at first no one knew if Da’Ja was in the vehicle. He drove straight to Rowan Regional Medical Center. When he arrived, his family was already there.
“As soon as I walked in the hospital, I saw my mom and my little sister. I knew it,” he said.
The night of the crash, three helicopters were called in to carry injured children to area hospitals. Two helicopters landed at Park Plaza and took patients to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. A third helicopter landed at Rowan Regional Medical Center before heading to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
The initial call about the accident came in around 8:15 p.m., reporting a single-vehicle wreck and a vehicle on fire. First responders found people inside and outside the SUV.
The fire was extinguished and emergency responders began tending to patients on the roadside and inside the vehicle.
“The condolences of the Spencer Police Department go out to all those who have lost family members in this tragedy,” James said.