Two local residents have been killed in a traffic accident in Florida, according to a family member of one of the victims.
James Rogers, 85, and Georgia Bell, 80, died after an eastbound vehicle driven by Rogers veered off Interstate 4 in Volusia County in northern Florida early last Friday morning and struck a concrete pillar.
Media reports from Florida say the accident happened about 1:05 a.m., and there is speculation that Rogers possibly dozed off at the wheel. The 2003 Ford passenger car went out of control and left its lane of travel for no apparent reason.
‘That’s what we all think, that he fell asleep,” Mary Hodges of Lowgap, the daughter of the woman who was killed, said of herself and other family members.
After the car went out of the lane, it struck a construction barrel before sideswiping a guardrail and leaving the highway, says accounts relayed by the Florida Highway Patrol. The front of the Ford then struck the concrete pillar.
Rogers and Bell, who both had been wearing seat belts, were pronounced dead at a hospital.
Bell lived at South Village Apartments in Mount Airy, located on Carolina Court off U.S. 601 in the vicinity of Highland Park Baptist Church.
Although Florida authorities list Rogers as having an address in Avon Park in that state, he also resided locally, according to Hodges.
“They were visiting some of his family,” she said of the couple’s reason for being in Florida last week.
Hodges added Wednesday that her mother and Rogers were good friends who had a lot of common interests, including attending services at Oak Ridge Baptist, Bell’s church, and that of Rogers, the name of which she could not recall.
“Mama had a lot of friends,” Hodges said of her mother, who leaves six children behind in all and worked at Renfro Corp. before retiring.
Funeral services on hold
Hodges says that in addition to dealing with the trauma of Bell’s death, her survivors have not been able to plan funeral services due to the investigation of the crash, which was continuing at last report.
This has included an autopsy being performed on Bell even though she was only a passenger in the car, apparently in accordance with Florida law.
The woman’s body has been kept at a funeral home there as her family awaits word on a return to North Carolina.
“I called the medical examiner yesterday,” Hodges said Wednesday. “They haven’t let me know anything.”
Hodges has been in contact with a local funeral home representative who was hoping to learn details later Wednesday about the woman’s body being transported to Mount Airy.
“We just don’t know when they can release the body and when it can be flown home — so that’s what we’re waiting on,” Hodges said.
She also was unsure about funeral arrangements for Rogers, including whether those might occur in Florida or locally.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.