MONTGOMERY COUNTY, NC – Two children were killed after a horrific wreck in Montgomery County on Saturday.
According to NC State Highway Patrol (NCSHP), the accident involved a car the children were riding in and a tractor-trailer. The accident happened at the intersection of Windblow Rd. and Belford Church Rd, which highway patrol called an “already dangerous intersection.”
A three-year-old and two-year-old were killed. Both were in car seats. The mother, who is four-months-pregnant, suffered a broken pelvis. The mother and baby survived the crashed. The father, also in the car, suffered a concussion, broken shoulder and a lacerated liver.
NCSHP confirms a stop sign was missing from the intersection because it was knocked down overnight. The driver didn't know to stop at the intersection.
Several people wondered why the missing stop sign wasn’t reported and/or fixed. Others wanted to know if the person who hit the stop sign would be held responsible for the wreck and subsequent deaths of the two children.
Trooper N.J. Talley said the stop sign was found in some nearby woods, which “raised the questions if it was deliberate because the downed stop sign was not reported.”
The NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) said the stop sign was fixed two hours after they were informed. The problem is, they were not made aware of the missing stop sign until after the accident.
It’s always up to NCDOT to fix a missing stop sign. However, the county or city or NCDOT county maintenance office must be notified. If the sign is on a municipal street, the municipality would need to be contacted. The best way to do this? NCSHP says call 911 if you notice a missing stop sign.
Trooper Talley said in his eight years working as a highway patrolman, he’s never seen an accident like this where “no one was at fault.”
Obviously, the drivers of the two vehicles were not at fault, because no one knew to stop. But, as several people wondered on social media, what about the person who hit the stop sign to begin with?
NCSHP haven’t said if they are actively looking for someone who may have hit the stop sign. If they were, hit and runs are difficult to solve, because of a lack of witnesses. Talley also said it’s possible an 18-wheeler hit the stop sign and didn’t know the sign was knocked down.
If someone hit the stop sign and failed to report it, is that person legally responsible for a subsequent wreck?
Criminal defense attorney Locke Clifford explained civilly, yes.
“The negligence in A, knocking down the sign and B not reporting it is a direct cause of the death of those children.”
But, as far as a criminal charges, Clifford doesn’t think, if the person who hit or removed the stop sign was found, charges would be brought against that person.
“(S)He’s committed two crimes, of reckless driving and damage to state property. But, if (s)he committed a crime and there’s an immediate death because of the crime, because of the recklessness, then that’s manslaughter. But, this would be a case of first impressions. I don’t remember of a case like this before. I think to say that this is an example of manslaughter is a stretch.”
Clifford added if the state was notified about the missing stop sign and failed to replace it immediately, then the state could be held responsible in civil court. Again, DOT and the county said they were not notified until after the accident.
North Carolina State Highway Patrol
Trooper N.J. Talley
North Carolina Department of Transportation
Criminal Defense Attorney Locke Clifford