Highway Patrol seeks witnesses to fatal wreck

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

By Scott Jenkins
Authorities say a 25-year-old man’s car crossed the center line and collided with a van before he was ejected and killed on Old Beatty Ford Road on Wednesday.
Hunter Ryan Garner, of Cal Miller Road in Rockwell, was not wearing a seat belt, N.C. State Highway Patrol Trooper J.P. Page said.
Two adults and two children in the van were taken to Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast, Page said. They are Steven Taylor and wife Nancy Taylor, both 65, of Gold Hill, and their grandchildren, a 5-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl.
The Taylors and the little girl were taken by ambulance to the Concord hospital. The little boy was taken by family members. Their injuries were not life-threatening, Page said.
The wreck happened Wednesday morning in the 7700 block of Old Beatty Ford Road. Page said Garner was driving a 1990 Mazda RX-7 west when he crossed the center line, into the path of an oncoming 2010 Chrysler Town & Country van.
The left front end of the van hit the car. The impact tore the driver’s side door off the Mazda, which came to rest off the road at the bottom of a slight embankment. The car’s convertible top was ripped across the middle and the door flew about 40 feet into the woods.
Garner was thrown from the car and to the side of the road. Emergency medical responders worked there trying to save his life but could not. A helicopter called to transport him from the scene was canceled.
The van came to a stop in a ditch on the other side of the road, its front end crushed in and its right front tire half buried in mud.
The adults in the van were wearing seat belts, and the children were secured in child safety seats, Page said. They were briefly trapped inside the vehicle until firefighters with the Bostian Heights Fire Department pried open the jammed doors with hydraulic tools.
Bostian Heights Chief Mike Zimmerman said no one in the van appeared to be seriously injured.
Debris from both vehicles littered the roadway and lay scattered in the grass and underbrush on both sides of the road. The Mazda was missing its left rear wheel.
Traffic backed up in both directions for a couple of hours as troopers investigated the wreck. Zimmerman, the Bostian Heights chief, said that stretch of Old Beatty Ford is heavily traveled and has seen its share of wrecks.
“We’ve had some bad ones down here over the years,” Zimmerman said.
John Griffin lives a couple hundred yards from where Wednesday’s wreck happened and said he thinks the 55 mph speed limit on the hilly, curvy stretch of Old Beatty Ford is to blame for most of the crashes.
“The speed limit is too high for this road,” he said. “They need to lower it.”
Griffin, who has lived there 25 years, said he believes the state should also build up the shoulders beside the road. He saw a gravel truck overturn after its driver ran off the road and couldn’t recover because the shoulder was too low, he said.
Page said it wasn’t clear Wednesday what caused the Mazda driver to cross the center line, and he asked any witnesses who haven’t yet talked with investigators to call the Highway Patrol at 1-800-233-3151.
He said he didn’t know if wearing a seat belt would have saved Garner’s life, but “it’s always better to have it on.”
The Rockwell Rural Fire Department assisted at the wreck scene. Rowan County EMS and the Rowan County Rescue Squad also responded.