JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The three people who died in two crashes on I-40 in Johnston County Wednesday afternoon have been identified and one person has been charged.
The NC State Highway Patrol has identified the passenger killed in a 2008 Volkswagen as Michael Anthony Peters, 64, of Youngsville.
Troopers said Peters' vehicle was one of several struck by a flatbed utility truck operated by 61-year-old William Van Oneal of Garner.
"When I tell my friends how he swerved at the last second like that they said, 'He was trying to save you. He was trying to save you. He was trying to help you.' And it could be because I think once he swerved it caused the truck to hit his side more after it skipped off our back," said Michael's wife Rosemary.
The other two victims were identified as Tidelands Health Board of Trustees Chairman H. McRoy Skipper Jr. and his wife, Jo Skipper.
Following the incident, Tidelands Health issued the following statement:
"It is with profound sorrow and the deepest regret that Tidelands Health mourns the loss of H. McRoy Skipper Jr., CPA, longtime chairman of the Tidelands Health board of trustees, and his wife, Jo Skipper. Our prayers are with the couple's family at this incredibly difficult time. Their loss and ours is immeasurable."
Sgt. Mike Baker told ABC11 that troopers were investigating one crash on I-40 near NC 210 when a second crash happened, which caused the most damage.
A total of nine vehicles were involved between the two crashes -- including a tractor-trailer and Oneal's flatbed utility truck which was hauling lumber.
"I can honestly say that was the worst wreck I have seen in my life and didn't realize the magnitude of it until I watched your newscast last night. To see the other vehicles, it was terrible," said Ron Sykes, an eyewitness at the scene.
Troopers said Oneal failed to reduce speed his speed for stopped traffic, causing him to strike several vehicles which then caused a chain-reaction of crashes.
"You really have to give yourself time to react to the unknown...We all have to pay attention to what's going on. You're out there running speeds of 70, 75, 80; some people run faster. You've got to be able to react and if everybody would do that it would save lives."
Oneal has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor death.
"I'm glad that he was charged but I think it should be more than a misdemeanor or just a pat on the back of the wrist because he clearly was not paying attention. When we saw the brake lights ahead of us it gave us more than enough time to slow down, plenty of time to slow down and we slowed down. And he did not even, I mean I don't recall any brakes being hit behind us. No squeal. He didn't, he never hit his brakes," said Rosemary.
The video in the player above is from a previous story.