CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Five people died and at least three others were hurt in a crash Friday night on Interstate 485 in north Charlotte, troopers said.
A mother, father and their two daughters were among those who did not survive the collision.
The crash happened around 7:30 p.m. on the inner loop of I-485. The road was closed between Oakdale Road and W.T. Harris Boulevard while police investigated the scene.
Channel 9′s Erin Edwards spoke with the mother’s sister, Lauren Parks, Sunday. She said the family is devastated.
“Just a wonderful beautiful family, full of life,” Parks said. “They’ll be missed dearly by a lot of people.”
The Obester family was heading to Virginia for a Fourth of July camping trip Friday night. Andrea, her husband Matthew and their daughters, Elizabeth and Violet, were on I-485 when a box truck hit their SUV head-on.
“They had their whole lives ahead of them,” Parks said.
Parks said the couple’s daughters were 7 and 12 years old. They also have an older brother, who was not in the car with them.
“At 14 years old, I can’t imagine what’s going on in his head right now. I can’t understand it myself,” she said.
Parks said the family had a love for animals. Andrea ran Angel Ark Animal Rescue in Belmont. Her two daughters loved to ride horses.
“Elizabeth, her older daughter, that was pretty much her whole life. And Violet was just starting to get into riding horses. They were the sweetest little girls,” Parks said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help provide financial support for the couple’s son.
Troopers said there were four cars involved in the collision. Officials said a car was traveling at an “extremely high rate of speed” -- nearly 100 mph -- on the outer loop of I-485 when the driver hit a box truck from behind, causing both vehicles to lose control and go into the median.
The box truck hit the cable barriers in the median, entered the inner loop lanes and drove into oncoming traffic.
The truck was first hit by an SUV with the Obester family inside. Troopers confirmed all four in the SUV died in the crash.
The box truck was then struck by another vehicle, killing one person and seriously injuring a passenger. That victim was identified as Mark Barlaan, from Indian Trail. He and his wife were passengers in the vehicle which was being driven by his son.
Barlaan’s son, Jameson, sent Channel 9 a statement that highlighted his father’s character, work with God, and legacy. He said, in part, “Dad was a selfless and hard-working man. He was also a devoted Christian who cared for his family and the people around him.”
Jameson also said his father had a tight bond with his co-workers at Bank of America, served at the Charlotte Rescue Mission, and gave back to seniors at their church in big ways.
Jameson’s full statement:
On June 3, I was heading back home from work. I was driving, mom was sitting on the passenger side and dad was sitting in the rear driver side. I was driving like any normal day when I saw it out of the corner of my eye. A white semi-truck from the opposite lane all of a sudden swerved into the median and flew into my lane. I tried to avoid it by pulling to the right. I don’t remember if I sped up or maintained my speed. Regardless, the truck smashed into rear driver’s side of the car and caused the car to spin into the grass. Once we stopped, I checked to see if everyone was alright. I turned around to see if dad was alright, but to my horror, I saw that he had died on impact. I will never know why dad went home to be with the Lord so soon. But I know that God’s hand has been on my family and that he has been preparing me for this day. I can only trust that God will use this tragic event in my life for something beautiful in the future. I have complete faith that he will be holding my hand as I walk through these dark times.
Dad was a selfless and hard-working man. He was also a devote Christian who cared for his family and the people around him and served them well. Dad’s motto was, “If you’re going to do something, do it right.” Dad certainly lived this out.
God’s work in my Dad’s life:
My dad was very much a Christian and wanted to show that through his life. He had a servant’s heart and was very relational. Dad was a manager at Bank of America and had developed a relationship with his team. Recently, dad announced to his team that he was going to move from his manager position at Bank of America. After the announcement, some of the members of his team started crying while others asked him to stay. Dad also served at the Charlotte Rescue Mission. Every time we went, dad would cook something from Bon Appetite and served it to the men. While they were eating, we sat with them and listened to their stories. Last Christmas, dad was asked to do dinner for the senior adults at our church, Christ Covenant. Initially, we started with 70 seniors. But after they heard that my dad was doing it, the numbers rose to 140. Many of the seniors can testify that the dinner was wonderful. Dad paid entirely for the dinner because he wanted the seniors to have a special Christmas gift.
That wasn’t perfect. He still made mistakes and is still human. But he imitated the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. God did many things in dad’s life and used dad for his purpose. But now, dad has finished his race with the Lord where there is no more pain and suffering. So I will say “good night, rather than goodbye” because I know I will see him again when we wake up in heaven.
Authorities said the woman driving the box truck was taken to the hospital with a broken wrist and broken ribs.
The driver of the suspect vehicle was also taken to the hospital with a broken neck. Officials said charges will be filed once they have been released. They have not released the identity of the suspect.
The interstate was closed for several hours while police investigated the crash. Troopers used a drone to map out the scene for reconstruction. They hope that and witness interviews will lead them to answers.
Early Saturday morning, a trooper that was back in the area of the deadly crash was critically hurt after a car collided with their patrol cruiser and then, the cruiser hit the trooper.
Officials said the trooper was getting ready to resurvey the scene from Friday night’s fatal crash and was beginning to shut the roadway down.
Trooper Adolfo A. Lopez-Alcedo had parked his car in the middle of the roadway to block two lanes at once and authorities said as two cars were coming down I-485, one went right of the car and the other went left, hitting the trooper’s patrol car. The patrol car then hit the trooper.
On Monday, the Highway Patrol was back out on I-485, still trying to piece together the tragic crash.
Troopers told Channel 9 they were already concerned about the area of interstate before Friday’s crash, saying that particular stretch of I-485 has been a major problem for years.
Channel 9 learned on Monday that troopers had talked about putting together an enforcement team in January. Plans were put on hold because of the pandemic but they say now it’s time to put that plan in motion.
Trooper Ray Pierce said they’ve seen too many deadly and serious crashes on I-485 caused by speeding and reckless drivers.
“We’ve kind of talked with DOT (Department of Transportation) to try all the avenues, whether it was lighting, whether it was line of sight,” he said. “It always came back to operator error -- just like the one on Friday night. High speed is what brought it.”
Two Mondays from now, Pierce said the Highway Patrol will be launching an interstate team, or I-team. Five troopers will focus solely on enforcement on I-485. Their first target area will likely be near Beatties Ford Road, where Friday’d crash took place.
“We’re not out there to try and hammer the public and, you know, generate revenue,” Pierce said. “The purpose is to try to avoid days like Friday.”
The new enforcement team will start working from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Troopers said most people are not speeding during rush hour, so the team will be working in the off hours to catch drivers.
Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.
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