Girl killed in China Grove crash; motorists reported SUV driving erratically before collision

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

CHINA GROVE — An 8-year-old Salisbury girl died in a Friday night collision on U.S. 29 and three other people were sent to the hospital. Authorities say the man who caused the wreck was driving while impaired.

Patricia Eleanor Burgdolf of Hilltop Lane died when the car she was riding in was hit from behind. She was wearing a seatbelt.

Burgdolf was riding in the right rear of a car driven by Michael Scott Thompson of Kannapolis. He and his wife, Shayne, and stepson, Justin Morgan, 7, of Kannapolis, were leaving Gary’s Barbecue when they were hit around 6:20 p.m.

Ross Edward Neese, 25, of 2106 Shimer Drive, Jamestown, was charged in her death.

According to China Grove Police Chief Hodge Coffield, Neese, who was driving a 1997 Ford Explorer, was traveling behind Thompson’s 2003 Toyota Corrolla in the left-hand lane. A third car driven by David M. Clark, of Whisper Drive, China Grove was also struck.

Neese hit Thompson’s vehicle from behind, spun around and hit Clark’s car, who was in the right lane in the rear before he came to rest in front of Thompson’s car.

Coffield said Thompson’s car was hit at an estimated speed of 70 mph.

According to Jeff Gledhill, China Grove’s interim fire chief, there were reports earlier in the Landis area of a driver running a stop light.

Coffield said someone had called into 911 to say the driver was impaired.

The collision was just yards away from Gary’s Barbecue.

The Thompsons were taken to NorthEast Medical Center, where Michael Thompson is listed in critical condition with a collapsed lung and head and neck injuries. His wife, Shayne, is in satisfactory condition.

According to the relative, Shayne is seven months pregnant.

Hospital officials said they are monitoring her closely, but she is doing well.

Justin Morgan’s condition was not immediately available.

The rear of the car the Thompsons were traveling in was compressed in to the front seats. It skidded to a stop partially in the grassy median.

Neese is charged with three counts of felony serious injury by vehicle, a new law as of Dec. 1, driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle.

The posted speed limit for U.S. 29 is 45 mph. China Grove Police Officer D.P. Walther investigated the case.

Lanny Moore, a West Virginia resident in China Grove visiting family members, said he was traveling on U.S. 29 when the SUV driver passed him. “He shot around us and swerved around another car,” Moore said.

He estimated the driver was traveling about 60 mph about two miles from where the cars collided.

“I thought, ‘Man, this guy is in a real hurry,’ ” Moore said.

He said he was on his way to eat at Gary’s Barbecue with his family. By the time he and his family arrived at the restaurant, the crash had already happened.

Hack Hargett, an employee at Gary’s, said he heard the crash. “It sounded like a bomb going off,” he said.

Hargett, who was outside at the time, turned around to see sparks and cars sliding across the roadway.

Witnesses stood around outside the restaurant and at a nearby convenience store watching emergency workers.

Some said they heard the wreck; others saw sparks and fire. One witness, who didn’t want to give her name, said she saw the car Thompson was driving, “literally fall apart.”

Crews from Landis, the N.C. Highway Patrol, Rowan County EMS and Rescue Squad were at the scene.

“I don’t think there was anything different anyone could’ve done,” Gledhill said.

Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or