GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — A 6-year-old boy was killed after a driver racing on a Gaston County highway hit the vehicle he was in head-on, according to state troopers.
The crash happened Saturday night on Highway 74 near Sparrow Springs Road, just outside Bessemer City.
According to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, two vehicles -- an Audi and a Dodge Challenger -- going nearly 100 mph were heading east on the highway when they lost control.
Troopers said the two racing cars collided and the Audi drove across the grass median and struck a Nissan Altima that was heading west head-on. A 6-year-old boy in the Nissan, identified as Liam Lagunas, was killed, according to troopers. Investigators said the boy was properly belted in a child safety seat.
“I just cried out for my baby. I wanted my baby,” Liam’s mother, Brandy Birrittier, told Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis. “When I went to see him, he was just laying perfectly on the table like an angel. His face was perfect.”
Family members said the child’s father, Santiago Lagunas, was taken to the hospital. He returned home days later and is in a lot of pain from the severe injuries and still can’t stand on his feet.
Liam’s parents said he was outgoing and kind, and loved Tae-Kwan-Do, soccer and swimming. They said he was constantly asking her to help the hopeless. He was also excited about his upcoming birthday trip to the beach -- he would have turned 7 on July 14. Instead, they’re planning a funeral.
“He’s my only child. Waking up is hard. Not kissing him goodnight. Everything is different and everything can change in one second,” Birrittier said.
Officials said the driver of the Audi was taken to a Charlotte hospital in critical condition.
“I just saw a light and that’s all I saw the whole time. Everything happened so quick,” Santiago said.
Several witnesses told Channel 9 it appeared the cars were racing at the time of the crash. One couple who came upon the crash ran to help.
“We saw that there was a wreck and the next thing we know there was a little boy on the side of the road,” Wanda Sisk said. “My instinct was to jerk off my seatbelt and go do CPR.”
Sisk and her fiance said they saw the crash happen.
“I tried my best and that’s all I could do,” Sisk told Channel 9 through tears. “I can’t sleep. I just feel sorry for his mom. I just want her to know I’m praying.”
A neighbor said that the stretch of Highway 74 where the crash happened is very dangerous because drivers frequently speed through there.
“This intersection, because actually pulling a trailer is kind of dangerous when you’re coming out here, because there is a little bit of a blind curve, especially down there,” neighbor Zach Brown said.
Channel 9 Gaston County reporter Ken Lemon spoke with family members of the boy on Monday. They said they are trying to make sense of it all.
“He was a very special kid,” the child’s uncle, Allen Salazar, said. “I mean, you know, he didn’t just see people. He saw their souls.”
Family members said the 6-year-old was headed to his father’s home to play with his siblings when the crash happened. Troopers said the pair never had time to react to the cars coming the other way.
“It’s deeper than pain. It’s something nobody should experience,” Salazar said.
“One bad decision can cost more than just your life,” NCSHP Trooper Ray Pierce said. “It can hurt someone else.”
It is unclear what charges the drivers will face, but troopers said those charges are pending. The driver of the Dodge accused of racing stayed on the scene and investigators spoke with him.
Investigators said they are consulting with the district attorney’s office about charges in the case.
“Before they start racing or speeding, they should think about others,” Birrittier said. “There’s a lot of people out there on the road traveling with their families, with the kids inside the car. Now our baby isn’t here.”
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