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Short trip ends tragically

ASKEWVILLE – One mile from home.

That’s where Deanna Starr Hepler, 27, was here Thursday afternoon where she lost her life in a single-vehicle accident.

The 2:54 p.m. wreck on RP 1343 (Pocosin Road) also injured four of Hepler’s children, one seriously.

A spokesperson with Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on Friday that five-year-old Taylor Sanders is listed in critical condition. Taylor was a back seat passenger in the 1999 Dodge Durango which Hepler was operating at the time of the accident.

Also injured were Krista Sanders, 7, Nicholas Sanders, 5, and Thorne Sanders, 1. All were treated and released from the hospital.

According to a report filed by NC Highway Patrol Trooper C.W. Godwin, Krista Sanders was the only person in the vehicle wearing a seat belt.

Godwin, based on information gained from Krista Sanders and from his observations at the scene, said Hepler was operating her vehicle south on Pocosin Road when she dropped her cell phone. While attempting to retrieve the phone, Hepler’s vehicle apparently traveled left of center and ran off the left side of the road. At that time, Hepler reportedly attempted to steer the vehicle back onto the roadway, but overcorrected, causing the SUV to overturn. Hepler, who resided at 135 New Road, was ejected and the vehicle came to stop in the ditch of a residence.

The report revealed that Hepler died at the scene, resulting in the 10th fatality this year in the Highway Patrol’s Troop A District II (Bertie, Gates and Hertford counties). Three of those deaths have been recorded in Bertie County.

“This accident occurred exactly one mile from her home,” Troop A District II First Sgt. Todd Lane said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are one mile from home or 100 miles, please take the time to secure yourself and any young passengers in the vehicle you are operating.”

First Sgt. Lane said if there was one silver lining in this tragic accident, it was the efforts put in by the emergency responders on the scene as well as the medical staff at Bertie Memorial Hospital in Windsor.

“When I arrived at the hospital, there were staff members in each child’s room and someone remained in the room with those children during the times that medical procedures were not being performed,” Lane noted. “I saw doctors and other members of the hospital staff coming in from other parts of the hospital to lend a hand.”

Lane continued, “The hospital staff showed a true community effort in assisting these children in this tragedy. They are to be commended for their work.”