Charges pending in Rich Square wreck

Published 9:41 am Tuesday, November 10, 2009

RICH SQUARE – A Rich Square woman miraculously survived what was described as a “horrific” accident here Friday evening.

Rich Square Police Chief Alan “Bo” Roye reported that 29-year-old Tessa Nowell is in stable condition at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville after the vehicle she was operating at an alleged high rate of speed slammed into an 18-wheeler.

Chief Roye told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald he witnessed the 7:30 p.m. accident that occurred on North Main Street (US 258) near Family Dollar.

“I was sitting stationary in my patrol vehicle when a mini van came past, traveling northbound at approximately 80 miles per hour,” Roye said. “The van was in the southbound lane, passing roughly six other vehicles.”

Roye said he took off in pursuit of the van – a 2006 Ford Freestar.

“As I pulled into the roadway, I saw the van traveling head-on into the path of a southbound 18-wheeler,” Roye reported. “The driver of the tractor-trailer swerved to the right in an effort to avoid the accident, but the van caught the left rear axles of the trailer, pushing them up underneath the trailer.”

Roye said the owner-operator of the 1996 Volvo 18-wheeler, James Whitehead (age 50) of Tarboro, was uninjured.

It took the efforts of two fire departments (Rich Square and Millennium) more than one hour to extricate Nowell from the tangled metal remains of the van.

“She suffered pretty major injuries and was airlifted to Pitt Memorial,” Roye said.

As of Monday morning, Roye said Nowell was “conscious and stable.”

Roye added that a small amount of marijuana and a smoking pipe were discovered in Nowell’s vehicle.

Charges are pending at this time.

In addition to the two fire departments, Roye said Northampton County EMS as well as units from the Woodland and Jackson Rescue Squads responded to the accident scene.