One dies in Bertie accident

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2004

POWELLSVILLE – In what has proven to be one of the deadliest years on Roanoke-Chowan area roadways, a Washington man was killed near here Tuesday afternoon during a two-vehicle mishap on U.S. 13.

Gregg Alan Eldridge, 36, died instantly after his vehicle reportedly crossed the centerline and struck another vehicle head-on. The 2:20 p.m. accident occurred on US 13, one-tenth of a mile west of Powellsville near the intersection of RP 1321.

Since Jan. 1, a total of 16 motor vehicle deaths have occurred in the Roanoke-Chowan area. Nine of those fatalities have been in Bertie County. According to First Sgt. B.A. Jones of the Ahoskie office of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, that total is ahead of last year’s figures where 11 highway deaths were reported from January through June.

Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Jones investigated this latest accident. He reported that Eldridge, operating a 1991 Isuzu passenger car, crossed the centerline and struck a 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer, driven by Amy Jernigan Baker, 46, of Aulander.

Baker was transported to Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville where she was treated and released.

It is not known why Eldridge crossed the centerline. Trooper Jones’ report did not list speed or the use of alcohol as contributing factors in the accident. That report also did not note any skid marks by either vehicle.

Sgt. Jones confirmed that a motorist traveling behind Baker informed Trooper Jones that Eldridge’s vehicle suddenly crossed the centerline.

&uot;If the accident did unfold the way the witness said it occurred, then it appears to me that neither driver had time to react,&uot; said Sgt. Jones. &uot;Therefore, there would not be any skid marks.&uot;

No charges were filed in the accident, but this latest fatality is a cause for concern for Sgt. Jones, especially in light of the high number of highway deaths already recorded in a short, six-month span.

&uot;We’re seeing a pattern of accidents, fatal and non-fatal, where drivers are crossing over the centerline,&uot; he noted. &uot;That tells me that they are not paying attention to what they are doing. Operating a motor vehicle is a full-time job. You can’t let your guard down for a single second.&uot;

Sgt. Jones said two major distractions for drivers are the use of cell phones and eating.

&uot;If you feel you must use a cell phone while driving, please pull a safe distance off the roadway, come to a complete stop and use the phone&uot; he stressed. &uot;As far as eating while driving is concerned, I would highly discourage drivers from attempting to do so.&uot;

With the July 4th holiday travel period beginning at midnight tomorrow (Friday), Sgt. Jones encouraged drivers to play it safe.

&uot;We’ll have every available trooper out throughout the holiday period,&uot; stated Sgt. Jones. &uot;I would advise motorists to plan their trips by keeping in mind that our roads will be extremely busy. Plan to leave early and expect some delays. But please, do not try to attempt to make up for lost time by speeding. Take your time, be patient and courteous to the other motorists and please, don’t drink and drive.&uot;

The July 4th holiday travel period ends at midnight on Sunday.