Witness, friend react to I-40 crash that killed 2, including Holly Springs teen

North Carolina news

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Two people died and two others were sent to the hospital with injuries after a crash on Interstate 40 near McConnell Road in Greensboro on Tuesday.

Greensboro police said 19-year-old Priya Hairston was driving east on I-40, crossed over the median, and collided with three vehicles.

Witnesses who watched the crash happen told FOX8 it’s an image that will stay with them forever.

“It happened so fast, and you see a vehicle in the air — it looked like it was 10-15 feet in the air. Immediately my reaction was, how do I get out of this,” Brandon Gwaltney said.

Gwaltney and his wife were heading back home on I-40 after an ultrasound appointment in Chapel Hill.

They were terrified that a gray Nissan was going to crash into them.

“The vehicle that was coming towards us was flying,” he said.

Gwaltney swerved just in time.

“We prayed for God to put a hedge around us and I believe that’s what he did,” he said.

Three other vehicles could not avoid the impact.

A white Kia Sorrento took the brunt of it.

“The white one is completely off the road in the grass. There are serious injuries there. Three people in this one and everything deployed,” one caller told 911 dispatchers.

“I ran back as fast as I could, up to the Kia and asked the lady in the driver’s seat if she was OK. She didn’t respond,” Gwaltney said. “Her window was busted out, so I moved the airbag out of the way. I saw that she had died.”

That was 51-year-old Lisa Tate.

She was taking her 17-year-old daughter Abby and 18-year-old Victoria “Tori” Padilla on a graduation celebration trip.

Padilla also passed away.

“[They] told me they were going to West Virginia with Abby’s mom to see the Mothman statue,” said Michele Brown, a close family friend. “A couple hours later, I got a Life360 alert that said there might have been a crash or dropped phone. I immediately started texting Abby, Tori and Abby’s mom.”

She never got a response.

Brown told FOX8 that Abby was sent to Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, where she was treated for a broken collarbone and some other injuries, but that she is now back home.

“Just the little bit I saw, it was hard to sleep last night. It took an emotional toll on me this morning,” Gwaltney said.

As Greensboro police try to figure out why Hairston crossed the median, Gwaltney is praying for the families affected.

“The majority of people I ride by on the highway are on their phones,” Gwaltney said. “I hope that was not the case here. Two people were killed, lives are forever changed in stuff like this.”

Hairston is charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and driving left of center.

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