Lincolnton resident Joni Stone still trembles when her mind flashes back to the deadly scene she encountered after a vehicle crashed into a tree across the street from her residence Thursday evening along N.C. 150, she told the Times-News on Friday.
William Franklin Baker, 56, of 202 Arbor Run Drive Apt. H in Lincolnton, died at the scene, according to troopers with The North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
Baker had been traveling down Curve View Road when his vehicle veered off the left side of the roadway and through the N.C. 150 intersection before colliding with a tree, Sgt. B. Hipp said.
Stone was on her duplex porch when she witnessed the crash, she said.
“I watched the car just not stop,” she said. “I expected him to turn, and he just smacked right into the tree.”
Stone immediately ran into the house, grabbed her shoes and raced to the scene while simultaneously calling 911, she said.
“I crawled into the brush which was deep and looked in (the vehicle), and he was unconscious and the air bag had gone off,” she said. “By then, people were stopping to see what happened.”
The driver was also slumped over onto the passenger seat, Stone said. While she wanted desperately to pull the man from his smoking 1998 Jeep SUV, the doors were locked, and the alarm started to sound.
“I just felt so helpless,” she said. “I feel for the (victim’s) family.”
Other vehicles soon stopped to help her, but it wasn’t until firefighters arrived on scene that crews were able to access the inside of the vehicle and extract the driver, Stone said.
She also moved into the roadway to direct traffic around all the emergency vehicles.
While Stone’s never before witnessed as significant a wreck, to the point where she noted she still shakes when she thinks about it, she’s no stranger to less serious crashes along the nearby roadway since she moved into her duplex five years ago.
“We have a lot of accidents around here,” she said.
As a result, Stone has immediate plans to contact the North Carolina Department of Transportation about the high amount of incidents.
Troopers have yet to receive word from a medical examiner regarding the cause of the crash or Baker’s cause of death, Hipp said.
The incident is the fourth wreck fatality in the county since January.
“I left flowers and prayers for him at the site,” Stone said.