Man charged in deadly crash following police chase in Gastonia

GASTONIA, N.C. — A woman was killed and a busy road in Gastonia was blocked for hours Saturday evening after a driver crashed head-on into another vehicle following a police chase.

Officers arrived around 5 p.m. to Target on Cox Road after someone reported a theft at the store.

Officers found out that the suspects had fled the store and gotten into a gray Nissan Altima.

Officers tried to stop the car in the Target parking lot, but the driver, 38-year-old Thomas Kirkland, escaped and drove the wrong way on East Franklin Boulevard.

Kirkland then crashed head-on into a Dodge Avenger at the New Hope Road intersection.

Kirkland's passenger, Deborah Patterson, 62, was taken to CaroMont Regional Medical Center where she died.

Kirkland and Donald and Patricia Curtis, the driver and passenger in the Dodge, were also taken to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Kirkland faces multiple charges, including misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, felony flee to elude arrest and felony larceny.

Channel 9 spoke with one witness who was shaken up after seeing the crash.

“I was going into the mall and I heard a loud bang like a car was having a wreck and it sounded like the police were chasing the car,” said Sarah Wolferd. “That person that died has a mother or father that's grieving at this time, and I think that's so sad.”

Channel 9's partners at the Gaston Gazette spoke with another witness Lisa Rudisill, who said police cars were following the suspect with their blue lights on, but they were not that close. She did not feel they were pushing the driver into a chase.

"He made the decision not to stop. He swerved around the median. He could have stopped," she said. "He almost made it, but he didn't make it."

All eastbound lanes of East Franklin were closed and only one westbound lane was open as police and state troopers investigated the wreck.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Gastonia police at 704-866- 6702.

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