Teen driver, sister killed in head-on crash passing school bus, troopers say

WILKES COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina state troopers said a 16-year-old girl and her younger sister were killed in a head-on crash Thursday afternoon while trying to pass a school bus.

Troopers said they responded around 4:40 p.m. to the crash scene on NC 18 near Painter Lane in Wilkes County, about a half-mile from the McGrady Fire Department.

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According to investigators, a 2006 Ford Freestyle driven by 16-year-old Cassandra Gilbert was heading north on NC 18 and following a school bus. Troopers said the teen tried to pass the bus in a passing zone, but before she could complete the pass approaching a curve in the road, the Ford collided head-on with a 2003 GMC pickup truck.

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Cassandra Gilbert and her 12-year-old sister Madison Gilbert, both of McGrady, were killed.

The driver of the GMC was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem with serious injuries but will survive, officials said. Highway Patrol said the driver swerved to avoid the teenage driver and her sister.

Neighbor Rick Lovette said he saw the sisters 24-hours earlier at the family's General Store.

"They're always coming up to me and saying 'Rick, can I give you a hug?' and I say, 'Why sure honey,'" Lovette said. "They were so sweet and so precious."

School officials from West Wilkes High School, where Cassie went to school, said extra counselors were brought in Friday.

"Prayers go out for the whole family," neighbor Terry Taylor said. "I have a 15-year-old daughter and it really impacted her. In fact, I had to go get her from school because she's sick on her stomach."

Officials said there may be video of the crash on cameras on the Wilkes County school bus. Channel 9's Dave Faherty learned there were students on the bus at the time of the crash.

"Oh my lord, this can't be," neighbor Cathy Bumgarner said. "Everybody talked about hugging their children a little bit tighter last night and how brief life can be sometimes."

The crash remains under investigation, but troopers said everyone was wearing seatbelts and no impairment is suspected.

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