CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) - An 8-year-old girl was killed when the vehicle she was riding in left the roadway and slammed into a tree stump, officials said.
Douglas Hutchins and his 11-year-old daughter Ella were hospitalized. Lucy, his 8-year-old daughter, died.
Hutchins, 42, was driving down Highway 42 east around 11:15 a.m. when he swerved to miss a car turning left onto Woodberry Drive, officials said.
The Toyota Four Runner hit a tree stump, overturned and went 100 feet down an embankment.
The stumps were present after Department of Transportation crews cleared trees as part of a road widening project in the area.
“My wife and I were both always concerned about the fact that there's no shoulder on either side on 42 and a deep drop off on both sides,” neighbor John Thomas said.
“I've been here about 25 years and this neighborhood, the traffic has become really bad on 42 in both directions,” another neighbor, Gerald Toler, said.
Hutchins and his two daughters were stuck inside, but EMS crews were able to get them out.
All three were transported to WakeMed, but Lucy died at the hospital.
Ella suffered broken bones and remains at WakeMed in good condition.
Hutchins was also injured and is still hospitalized in serious condition.
Lucy was a second grade student at River Dell Elementary and Ella is a fifth grade student at the school, according to Crystal Roberts with the Johnston County Public School system.
Roberts said, "Currently, counselors, a grief counseling team, and other student services support staff are assisting the student, staff, and administration with processing their thoughts and emotions. Plans to honor Lucy's memory have not yet been determined, but Principal Chad Jewett did notify students and staff last night about the tragedy. Volunteers and community members have offered to assist where needed."
Johnston County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David Ross Renfrow released a statement that reads, "We are deeply saddened by the loss of a student member of our school district family. Our deepest condolences are extended to the Hutchins family and the River Dell school family in the loss of second grader Lucy Hutchins."
The highway patrol said all three were wearing their seatbelts.
The road was closed until 2:15 p.m.
“Hopefully, some day, with the four lanes, the way they'll set up the road perhaps, hopefully it'll be safer,” Toler said.
According to the NCDOT website, construction of those four lanes from Glen Laurel to Buffalo Road is set to begin this year.
A GoFundMe has been set up for the Hutchins family.
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