Black ice causes seven-vehicle accident on 52 N

Staff report

February 17, 2014

Officials blame black ice for an early-morning accident on U.S. 52 North that involved seven vehicles, including a fire truck and first responder’s vehicle.

Just before 6:30 a.m., a 2006 Ford Ranger truck driven by Denise Vaughn of Dobson, age 26, hit a patch of black ice caused by snow melt in the curve on 52 North, just after 52 splits with I-74, according to Trooper James Selba with the North Carolina Highway Patrol and Surry County Emergency Services Director John Shelton.

According to a witness, Vaughn was traveling slowed than the posted speed limit, driving at approximately 50 miles per hour when she hit the black ice, lost control of the truck, and flipped onto the guardrail that runs along the right side of 52 North.

Selba said Vaughn “was really lucky it was not a fatality, because she rode the guardrail for a short distance,” and then overturned back onto the wheels of the truck.

Vaughn was transported by ambulance to Northern Hospital of Surry County, where she received stitches in her hand. Selba also reported Vaughn was “banged up” and had leg pain from hitting the steering wheel, but she was wearing her seat belt.

“She fared pretty well, considering the nature of the accident.”

Shortly after the truck driven by Vaughn lost control after hitting the black ice, Selba said a red 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier car driven by Jesse Hickman of Mount Airy, age 52, lost control on the same patch of black ice and overturned in the median, hitting an abandoned F150 truck. Selba said the abandoned truck was still sitting after being left during last week’s snow storm.

Hickman was not injured, but the passenger in Hickman’s car, his wife Felicia Hickman, age 54, was transported to Northern Hospital of Surry County by ambulance with minor injuries and released. Selba said she was “doing fine” after returning home from the hospital.

The fourth vehicle involved in the accident, a green Subaru, was driven by a man who pulled over to check on the accident victims. He was partially in the right lane of 52N, Selba reported, when a man driving a red Ford passenger car rear-ended him: “The gentleman driving the red car was trying to stop, but the road was still slick and he started sliding and was unable to get his car stopped in time.”

The identities of the drivers of the fourth and fifth cars involved were not immediately available.

The sixth and seventh vehicles involved were a Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department fire truck and a first responder arriving on the scene.

The Bannertown fire truck, driven by Christopher Travis Baker, age 35, arrived on the scene with lights and siren activated, and Selba said Baker was trying to decide where to pull off, but didn’t realize that a GMC Jimmy SUV, driven by Mount Airy Rescue Squad First Responder James Morton, 45, had pulled up beside of him. The two vehicles collided, damaging the right side of the fire truck and the front left corner of the truck driven by Morton.

Trooper Selba said the initial 911 call came in at 6:26 a.m. for a personal injury accident involving the truck driven by Vaughn, and as he was driving to the scene, additional accidents were reported, with the last one — the collision between the fire truck and the first responder — happening around 6:35 a.m.

Traffic was stopped on 52 North for a short amount of time, while the DOT placed salt on the highway, then Selba said the left lane of 52 North was opened, but they periodically had to close both lanes of 74 and 52 to remove vehicles from the scene.

No serious injuries were reported.

Responding to the scene of the accident were Surry County Emergency Services, Mount Airy Rescue Squad, Pilot Mountain Rescue Squad, the North Carolina Highway Patrol, and Bannertown Fire Department.

Shelton said folks should be extra careful while the snow is still melting: “You may get a feeling of false security and feel like the roads are okay out there, but as long as temperatures are dropping, particularly in the late evening and early morning hours, water that is a result of snow melting during the day is going to freeze, especially on shady areas, bridges, and overpasses…Folks need to be extra careful during morning and evening commutes. Keep safe distances, because right now we aren’t sure where all the locations [of ice] are, and it could be quite a surprise. Keep a safe distance behind other vehicles in case of black ice.”

Selba agreed with Shelton, and added that the most important tip for people to remember is “slow down and not to hit the brakes or turn the steering wheel abruptly.”