Police: Charges likely in crash that killed soldier

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) -- Authorities said charges are likely to be filed in the Monday night crash that killed a Fort Bragg soldier.

Holden Philbrook, 19, died at UNC Hospitals according to police. The Fort Bragg soldier was driving his motorcycle on Cliffdale Road between Bunce and 71st School Roads when he crashed into the side of a pick-up truck that was turning in front of him.

Police said the crash happened around 6:30 p.m. as 32-year-old Gordon Gardner pulled out of the center lane, making a left turn into the Brookstone apartment complex. Most of the oncoming traffic had stopped for Gardner, who was driving a Toyota Tundra with his two young children inside.

Neither Gardner nor his children were injured.

"We had two lanes of traffic stopped and drivers in both of those lanes had motioned to the gentleman to come across," said Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock.

Medlock said Gardner was unable to see Philbrook, who had driven around the stopped cars and into the open inner lane.

Medlock cautioned drivers against trusting drivers who motion you across traffic.

"We really don't recommend that," said Medlock. "It's part of our culture in the South. We're friendly and so folks try to make a lane for somebody making a left turn."

In this case the consequences were deadly. Despite some contrary witness accounts, investigators said the young soldier was not speeding. Medlock and others who know the driver said Gardner was visibly upset over the crash, but it is likely he will face charges for driving into oncoming traffic.

Problem Area

Mary Lee Cudd owns the MedSpa business right in front of the accident site.

Police confirmed Philbrook's death, which she believed was inevitable after seeing the aftermath Monday night.

"Oh, it was horrible," Cudd said. "It was obvious he was hurt really bad."

Cudd said the heavy traffic around the accident site is nothing new. She never makes the left turn Gardner tried to make.

"I've been here two-and-a-half years [and] I bet there have been ten accidents since we've here," Cudd said, motioning to the accident site. "I really wish they would put some sort of traffic light there. I think we really need one."

That it unlikely according to state regulations.

Tom Hollinshed is a partner in the Brookstone LLC company that owns the apartment complex where Gardner lives.

He said management knows the state won't install a light in the problem area due to its proximity to the lights on either side of it at 71st School and Bunce Roads. They're less than a mile apart and similar requests have been denied for other Brookstone-owned properties.

"We know ours wouldn't qualify," Hollinshed said. "They put the traffic light too close to our complex to get one."

Hollinshed said management has tossed an idea around to request connecting the apartment complex to the adjacent shopping center's property. That may qualify them for some additional safety measure near the crash site.

"That's something we've thought about, but never pursued," said Hollinshed.

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