LINCOLN COUNTY, N.C. - One person was killed and several others were badly injured Wednesday morning in a head-on collision involving a family in Lincoln County.
Officials said the crash happened around 10 a.m. on Highway 73 near the McMillan Estates in Iron Station.
Channel 9 was told that the victims in one of the cars are all family members and were driving to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte to visit a relative when the crash happened.
Investigators said there were four people in the car. The driver, Idael Madonano, died at the scene, while another family member was flown to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Another was taken by ambulance to CMC, and the fourth person was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
Channel 9 learned that a 16-year-old passenger in the vehicle, Ana Perez, is an accomplished honors student from West Lincoln High School and was recently crowned Lincoln County’s Apple Festival queen. Perez is currently in critical condition, officials said.
Troopers told Channel 9 they believe the driver of the truck, Cecil Dellinger, was heading home for Thanksgiving when he fell asleep and crossed the center line, causing the collision.
A driver, who did not want to be identified, said Dellinger nearly hit him.
"It's scary," the driver said. “I'm just thankful to be here. Someone was watching me."
The driver said he saw the wreck.
"Unfortunately, he hit the car that was behind me. They both went flying in the air," the driver said.
Witnesses and Dellinger tried to get the other three passengers out, but the car was too badly damaged.
Dellinger was distraught, witnesses said.
Firefighters used an ax to peel off the roof of the car.
Troopers say this should be a lesson to weary holiday travelers.
Both Boger City and Pumpkin Center fire departments sent firefighters to the scene.
From Chopper 9, heavy front-end damage could be seen to both a car and a pickup truck, and emergency crews had shut down the road.
Troopers said they have consulted the district attorney about appropriate charges against Dellinger.
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