WAKE COUNTY (WTVD) --Authorities in Wake County have charged a man after a fatal accident Monday morning along US-64 in Wake County, near the Franklin County line.
Around 6 a.m., a Pontiac van headed westbound on US-64 at Debnam Road was hit from behind by a GMC Envoy and pushed off the road into a wooded area - where it overturned.
The driver of the van, 53-year-old Judy Marie Claybourne of Zebulon, was killed. Her husband, Darryl Claybourne, and 16-year-old daughter, Ameerah Godwin, were taken to WakeMed. Ameerah was upgraded to fair condition on Monday evening but remained in the intensive care unit. Ameerah is a basketball player at East Wake High School. She's in 10th grade.
Darryl Claybourne has since been released from the hospital. He spoke briefly to ABC11 on Tuesday.
Claybourne said the accident happened so quickly, he doesn't remember seeing Hicks' vehicle coming at them. He also told us Ameerah's condition has remained the same. The teen generally isn't conscious, though she wakes up occasionally.
And he has an important message for people: Don't text and drive. It's not cool.
On Monday, neighbors remembered his wife, Judy, fondly.
"She was a nice person. I'm going to miss her," said Chris Sutton.
Sutton was supposed to spend Memorial Day cooking out with his next door neighbors. Instead, he's grieving, mourning the sudden death of one of his closest friends.
The Claybournes were returning home from visiting relatives in Philadelphia, and just a few miles away from home.
The driver of the GMC - 42-year-old Erik Christian Hicks of Knightdale - is charged with texting while driving and failure to wear a seatbelt.
"That's what bothers me," Sutton said. "We know that this is against the law but yet we still have people out here that do those same things every day."
Hicks was also taken to the hospital and was released by Monday evening.
On Monday afternoon, The North Carolina Highway Patrol said that after further investigation, the Pontiac van was initially stopped on the right shoulder of the highway, where Claybourne's husband got out of the driver's seat to switch positions with his wife.
As Judy pulled back onto the roadway from the right shoulder. Hicks failed to reduce speed and struck the van in the rear. Investigators determined that Hicks was texting at the time of the collision and did not realize the van had pulled onto the roadway.
"It makes it sad any time there's a loss of life or injuries. We try to increase patrols during these times of heavy traffic volumes. Main thing people just need to do is watch their speed. Increase their following distance and just watch out for the other drivers who might not be paying attention," said Sgt. JK Aiken with the Highway Patrol.
Hicks may face additional charges.
Sutton said Judy Claybourne was always looking out for her neighbors. Most Sundays, she rounded up the neighborhood children and took them to church.
"She means a lot to this neighborhood because she was involved and everything, trying to help people," Sutton said. "This is a crying shame that this happened at a time like this. This was supposed to be a memorial for our passed-on ones, not for the one that died today."
Funeral services for Judy Claybourne will be held at Living the Life of Faith Church, but an exact date has not yet been set.
In the meantime, community members - including the staff at Barham's Family Restaurant where Darryl Claybourne works, are raising funds for Judy's funeral services.
Employees at Barham's said they're like family.
"We all love each other dearly and we know this is a really bad tragic loss for Darryl and our hearts break also so we're trying," cashier Donna Carter said. "I made that up so that people know just how close knit we are and that we know that Darryl would really appreciate the help from donating money to funeral expenses and so forth."
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