Teen's death spurs study on Person County intersection

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The DOT will now study a dangerous intersection in Person County. (Courtesy of Fitzgerald Family)

A 16-year-old driver is dead and the intersection where she lost her life will be under investigation by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

"It's a poorly laid out intersection to have such a high volume of cars," said Chris Lynch, a firefighter with Timberlake Fire and Rescue.

Lynch's fire department is on Ashley Avenue, not far from where it meets U.S. 501, or Durham Road. Directly across the five-lane highway is a Dollar General.

"It's very convenient for residents of Timberlake to have a Dollar General so it's a frequented spot," Lynch said.

He said the problem is when residents are either pulling out of the store's parking lot or from Ashley Avenue to cross the highway.

"We've had numerous accidents that have closely resulted in a fatality," Lynch said.

He said fellow firefighters have complained to the NCDOT about the spot in the past.

"From what I have been told most of the time, DOT, they actually wait until a fatality occurs before they come out," Lynch said.

That fatality came Wednesday.

Investigators with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said 16-year-old Faith Fitzgerald was attempting to cross U.S. 501 from the Dollar General parking lot. Two cars traveling southbound ended up hitting her.

Faith died on the way to the hospital. Her 12-year-old sister Paige was in the car with her and was just released from the hospital Friday night.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND HELP THE FITZGERALD FAMILY

Joanna Fuqua, 33, of Timberlake, was one of the other drivers. She had a 15-year-old in the car with her at the time of the crash. Both were taken to Person County Hospital and released. Kermit McCargo, 51, of South Boston, Va., was in the second car. He was not injured. Investigators said everyone was wearing their seatbelts.

"Tragically this is a fatal accident so we will certainly go out to see what can be done, if there is something," said Steve Abbott, spokesperson for the NCDOT.

Abbott sent us the crash record for that intersection from the past five years.

READ MORE: SEE THE COMPLETE CRASH RECORD HERE (.PDF)

It shows in that time frame there have been 12 crashes, not including the accident that killed Fitzgerald on Wednesday. Half of those crashes ended with injuries.

Considering the number of cars that pass through that area, Abbott said that isn't a high number of accidents. He also points out that the report only includes accidents that were reported to them, and not any minor accidents that people may have handled themselves.

Despite the number of accidents, Abbott said they will be looking into other factors that could be making that intersection a problem. They will be looking at the speed in the area, the speed the drivers involved in the accident were going, driver judgment and line of sight.

This is a popular but dangerous intersection for Timberlake residents.



One issue with line of sight Lynch pointed out is the slight hill as you look north on U.S. 501, which makes it hard to see oncoming traffic.

As far as why the NCDOT waits until there is a fatality to investigate a road or an intersection, they say it boils down to money and manpower. The number of accidents statewide is very high and it would take a lot of money and manpower that they don't have to closely look into every accident.

"Our policy, across the state is when there's a fatal accident, in most cases, we then go out once we get the police report, what caused the accident, we go out and do a traffic study, we go out and look at crash histories, traffic volume, look at angles and look at what's going to make it safer."

At this time, the NCDOT is at the very beginning stages of this, so it's too soon to know what, if anything, will be done, or how long the investigation will take.

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