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Three killed in accident in Brunswick County, N.C.

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A fatal wreck Saturday in Brunswick County, North Carolina, is another example of the serious consequences that can result from the combination of drinking, driving and high speed – a driver and two passengers dead and another passenger severely injured.

The single-car crash took place during the early morning hours of September 11, 2010 near the town of Northwest. Michael Eric Johnston, 28, of Leland, N.C. was driving his 2001 Chevrolet pickup truck east on Malmo Loop Road, according to news reports. At 2:29 a.m. his truck ran off the road, struck some posts in a churchyard and overturned. It flipped at least twice before coming to rest, according to Trooper J.H. Shaw.

Judging by the diagram in the accident report, this pickup actually rolled over three or four times. Why? Because the truck was going 70 miles an hour in a 55-zone when it ran off the road. It was going 65 mph at the impact, and went 187 feet before it stopped rolling. That’s 62 yards the truck rolled – over half the length of a football field.

To view the Highway Patrol report, click here.

Three people died at the scene: the driver, Johnston; passenger Aimee West Brown, 32 of Leland; passenger Jennifer Wood Sessoms, 27, of Winnabow. All three were thrown out of the vehicle.

The only person in the pickup who survived was wearing a seatbelt. Randall James Sessoms, 36, was transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. He sustained disabling injuries, but was in stable condition. He was Jennifer Sessoms’ husband.

The accident is still under investigation, but alcohol is believed to have played a role in the crash, Shaw said.

The details from this accident raise serious questions:

  • Was one person wearing a seatbelt because four people wear crammed into a truck cab meant to seat only three? With only three seat belts available?
  • Did the driver make a decision to take responsibility for the lives of three passengers when he was under the influence of alcohol at about 2:00 in the morning? Just after closing time?
  • Speaking of closing time –this crash happened about 30 minutes after bars have closed. Was this individual served too much alcohol before heading out on the road? Was the bar or bartender negligent?
  • Did the driver have any record of driving while impaired? If so, did the bartenders know about his driving history?

Rollovers happen more often with vehicles with higher centers of gravity – SUVs and trucks. That could have made a difference here. But most assuredly, alcohol, speed, and bad decisions made the crucial – and lethal – difference.