LENOIR, N.C. - NC Highway Patrol point to an after-market floor mat and no seat belt as the cause of fatal crash in Caldwell County Sunday evening that claimed the life of a 10 year old boy.
Clyde Gates III was ejected from a Ford F 150 driven by his mother along Abington Road near Lenoir.
"He was my namesake," cried Clyde Gates Sr., the boy's grandfather. "He was just full of life and vibrant, this is where it all ended," he said pointing to the crash scene.
The Gates family returned to the crash scene Monday afternoon. Amanda Gates crouched in a child pose on the side of the road, hiding her cries with her hands.
"She's really at her wits’ end, she doesn't know what to do," said her father.
Amanda Gates was behind the wheel of the truck Sunday evening. Her father says she was taking her son, daughter and their three friends to Grounds Creek for a swim.
While Amanda Gates buckled up, investigators say the five children did not. Clyde Gates Sr. says his daughter reminded the kids to put on their seat belts.
"They had just stopped at the store and got drinks to take at the creek and you know how kids are they were all listening to music," said Clyde Gates,Sr.
Before they made it to the creek, troopers say a floor mat covered the gas pedal and Amanda Gates lost control and the car flipped several times on Abington Road.
"She couldn't get it off the gas, she just couldn't slow it down," said Clyde Gates Sr.
Her 10 year old son was ejected. The other passengers walked away with minor scrapes and bruises.
"He would be here today if he had that seat belt on," Amanda Gates cried. "I wouldn't have found him so far away and he wouldn't have died in my arms," she said.
State Troopers warn drivers about the dangers of after-market floor mats.
"The mat itself was too big for that vehicle it wasn't made for that vehicle, so what it did was slid up," said Trooper T.A. Rathbone. "If you are going to purchase something, make sure it is something specifically for that vehicle."
Trooper Rathbone also encouraged parents to ensure their kids are wearing seat belts. "Before they even put that vehicle in drive make sure their child has their seat belt on, last thing as a parent you want to happen is to lose a child.”
That is a feeling that the Gates family now know all too well.
Clyde Gates III was a fifth grader at Kings Elementary School. His grandfather says he usually didn't need reminding about bucking up.
"No matter how trained your kid is, you got to check you have to make sure," he said. "He always had it on, he never went anywhere without buckling up."
"God knows the day and the time we're all going to pass and I know where Clyde is right now," he cried. "He's with my wife and she's finally able to take care of her grand baby," he said.
The Gates family is finalizing funeral arrangements.
The Highway Patrol says the investigation is ongoing and the District Attorney will determine if charges are warranted.