‘Terrifying’: Truck plows through Gastonia fairgrounds, stops yards away from child

GASTONIA, N.C. — A fun night at the fair for dozens of families took a drastic turn when a man drove over a barrier and into the center of the fairgrounds.

It happened Wednesday night at the Gaston All American Fair outside of Eastridge Mall in Gastonia.

Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the park operator told Channel 9′s Ken Lemon it could’ve ended much differently. He said because it was a weeknight, the crowds were not as big.

The tires of the truck were flattened when it went over the barricade that surrounded the fair.

The driver of that truck, who police say was driving under the influence, still made it about half the the distance of a football field before stopping just yards away from 9-year-old Dre McNeil.

“Terrifying,” McNeil said.

He and his family were on the Zero Gravity ride, one of the scariest in the park. He heard trouble over the usual sounds of a fair ride at night.

“I heard, like, a gun shot, but it was like a truck went over a curb,” McNeil recalled.

That truck was headed toward him.

A viewer snapped pictures of the black pickup truck and passed them on to Channel 9.

Investigators said the driver, Brittin Dawkins of Blacksburg, South Carolina, passed out behind the wheel. They believe he was high on marijuana, and believe the woman who was in the truck with him was as well.

Police said an off-duty officer was working the fair and reported the incident.

“Vehicle had blown through the barricade,” said Rick Goodale with the Gastonia Police Department.

The fair operator said it’s amazing that the truck missed a section of tables and snagged the hitch on the funnel cake trailer without damaging it.

“It was headed right toward fairgoers and rides,” Goodale said.

The flat tire slowed the truck down, and it hit the curb around a small tree and stopped.

“We don’t know what could have happened if the vehicle had not got a flat tire,” Goodale said. “This could have been a very serious incident with serious injuries and potential loss of life.”

The ordeal was so frightening that one fairgoer had to be treated on the scene for a panic attack. That person is OK now.

Dre McNeil was able to wash his fears away and keep going.

“I got a water. I poured some on my head,” he said.

Police said the passenger in the truck had a small amount of marijuana and she was arrested for that.

(WATCH BELOW: Police searching for driver in Gastonia hit-and-run that left woman seriously hurt)