Raleigh I-40 crash victim was son of former Chatham County sheriff

Ed Crump Image
Monday, July 30, 2018

RALEIGH, NC (WTVD) -- The young man killed in a chain-reaction crash on I-40 in Raleigh was the son of former Chatham County Sheriff Richard Webster.

Austin Webster, 27, was hit from behind by a concrete truck Friday afternoon on eastbound 40 just before the South Saunders Street Exit.

Traffic was backed up and stopped at that exit all the way out onto the interstate.

Raleigh police say the driver of the cement mixer told them he was trying to change lanes and didn't notice traffic had stopped in front of him.

Another motorist, Julisa Brown, was headed to her mother's home in South Raleigh for dinner and was one of the many drivers trying to exit at South Saunders.

"I was just, you know, waiting for the line to move so I could exit South Saunders," Brown told ABC11. "And then I just heard like a loud, screeching noise to where somebody was hitting on brakes."

She said she then heard, "The 'boom' from the truck. And spinning and hitting other cars happened seconds after that."

Brown, who is wearing a cervical collar, said she sustained neck and back injuries and also suffered torn leg muscles.

She said the heavy truck crushed Webster's car even though police said the driver was only going 40 mph.

Five cars were involved in the chain-reaction crash started by the truck.

"My car basically ended up like at a T-bone with Austin's car," Brown said. "And once I was able to really open my eyes to see everything that was going on, just seeing his car was the worst thing that I could open my eyes to. How it was smushed together, and me realizing that an actual human being was inside. The only thing I was worried about was just to get him out. I just wanted him to be OK."

But at the hospital, she soon learned Webster - just two years older than her - died.

She cried.

She noted that her emotional scars may be as bad as the physical ones saying, "I've never experienced anything like that before. I've never been in a car accident at all. So for this to be my first one and it being as big as it was and somebody passing away, it's horrible."

She said she can't imagine how the truck driver feels.

"I'm pretty sure he was traumatized also and shaken up," she speculated. "But that's what happens when you are driving and not paying attention to traffic."

Police identified the truck driver as 33-year old Giovanni Bilotta of Durham. He has been charged by Raleigh police with failure to reduce speed and misdemeanor death by vehicle.