The driver of a plumbing truck could spend more than 15 years behind bars after a deadly wreck Tuesday.
Authorities say he hit a day care van with his work truck, taking the life of 39-year-old Martha Darlene Peterson.
Peterson, known by loved ones as Darlene, was the driver of the day care van with several children aboard from Kids Country of Clayton.
“I’d walk over here, walk on the porch and I’d knock on her door and say come on out, and we’d sit out here and we’d lose track of time when we were talking,” said Paterson’s close friend Terry Baker.
Baker spent a lot of time sitting on Peterson’s porch.
“This is what we’d do, sit, rock, drink Diet Mountain Dew, she would drink a Diet Pepsi, this is what we would do,” said Baker.
On Tuesday evening he sat in the same spot waiting for Peterson to come home from work, but she never made it.
“I sat here about two hours waiting, texting, calling and she never answered,” Baker said.
Peterson’s passion was taking care of children. She worked in the day care industry for more than a decade.
She was driving children home from Kids Country of Clayton when things took a tragic turn.
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol says a truck owned by Bizzy Bee Plumbing crossed the center line and struck the day care van head-on.
“That hurt me,” Baker said. “I’m tore to pieces. I go in and out trying to hold it together.”
Several kids were in the van. They got away with minor injuries, but Peterson didn’t make it.
“I wish she was here today and I could redo what I need to say and just tell her much I feel about her,” said Baker. “When you’re living a normal life, you don’t really think about that when you’re doing everyday activities.”
Baker is now filled with regret.
“When I was in the hospital she’d be there,” Baker said. “When she was sick I was there. She was someone I could really trust and me myself going through two marriages. I just never spoke up and said the final words to make it further and now I wish I did, but now it’s too late.”
He says he’ll spend the rest of his life wishing things could have been different.
“I would tell her right now I love her,” said Baker. “I sure would and I probably would like to propose to her because she meant that much to me and I didn’t realize it. I really didn’t realize it.”
The driver of the work truck, 38-year-old Seth Tracey is charged with felony death by motor vehicle and DWI in the crash.
“He killed my mother and he deserves the worst thing,” said Peterson’s daughter, Trinity Cherry. “I just want the worst thing to happen to him. My mom died a hero, she saved those kids and I’m proud of that, but I still didn’t want to lose her.”
Peterson leaves behind a 21-year-old daughter. Destiny Cherry is in college and studying biology. She is heartbroken, but she isn’t giving up on her dreams.
“I’m gonna graduate college and be a grown up and make her proud, that’s all I can do,” said Destiny Cherry.
Friends have started a GoFundMe page to help Destiny Cherry through this difficult time.
The president of Bizzy Bee Plumbing, Inc. released a statement regarding the crash on Friday morning:
“I want to personally apologize, along with my family and my employees, here at Bizzy Bee Plumbing, Inc about the tragic accident that injured children and sadly took the life of Martha Peterson.
This has been very hard on us and we can only imagine the pain the families and friends of Martha are feeling.
We absolutely, do not, allow employees to drive under the influence. We randomly drug test our employees and have records to show this. If we were notified of Mr. Tracy’s condition Monday, he would never had been behind the wheel of our vehicle.
We are truly sorry and we continue to pray for everyone involved.”
Tracy is due back in court Nov. 15 for a probable cause hearing.