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Driver in fatal accident was operating on learner's permit

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — A South Iredell High student who died Saturday when she was thrown from a vehicle that rolled and hit a utility pole along N.C. 150 was not wearing a seat belt.
Trooper D.R. Morgan of the N.C. Highway Patrol identified the victim as Brittany Newton, 17, of 435 Fern Hill Road, Troutman.
Newton was thrown roughly 100 feet from the front passenger seat of a 2001 Chevrolet Blazer driven by her friend, Kember Faith Turner, 17, of 1025 Airport Road.
Turner and three young children in the back of the SUV — Giovanni Santes, 4; Matthew Santes, 3; and Saranei Santes, 1 — were injured and taken to Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast. By early Sunday afternoon, they all had been released from the hospital, except for the 4-year-old boy.
Turner is the children’s aunt.
Morgan said Turner was operating the vehicle on a learner’s permit and that Newton was not old enough to qualify as an adult instructor, which is required for drivers on a learning permit.
“That’s obviously a problem,” Morgan said. “… She was definitely in violation, no question.”
The trooper still had interviews to conduct Sunday before consulting Monday or Tuesday with the district attorney to determine what charges to bring.
The driver was not impaired, and there was no evidence of alcohol, Morgan said. He was still trying to determine whether excessive speed was a factor.
His report says that Turner became distracted, leading to the Blazer’s leaving the road. Traveling west, the Blazer came out of a curve west of Briggs Road and went off N.C. 150 to the right, hit an embankment, rolled and hit a utility pole in the front yard where Dena Senpkhamhong lives.
Turner was wearing a seat belt. Ejected from the vehicle, Newton landed a good distance from the vehicle near a well-house covering in the home’s front yard. Three motorists who came on the wreck scene worked as a team to administer CPR to Newton, but she could not be revived.
The accident occurred about 1:38 p.m. Saturday.
Morgan said the 1-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy were in car seats in the back of the Blazer. The 4-year-old boy should have been in a booster seat at the minimum, Morgan said, and he is not sure whether Giovanni Santes was even buckled in.
“We’re still working on that information,” he said.
Turner reportedly was driving her friend Newton back to her Troutman home when the accident occurred between Briggs and Patterson roads, near Moore Haven Drive.
Morgan spent much of Saturday after the accident trying to contact family members and track down information on the victim. He credited a resource officer at South Iredell High for valuable assistance.
Traffic on N.C. 150 had to be detoured onto Briggs and Patterson roads Saturday afternoon during the accident’s investigation.
The speed limit in this section of N.C. 150 is 55 mph.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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