Three die in fiery wreck

Published 9:16 am Tuesday, January 14, 2014

COLERAIN – A Friday night recreational outing to take in a high school basketball game in Windsor took a tragic turn near here Friday night when three family members perished in a fiery auto crash.

Willie Lee Perry, 48, his wife, 51-year-old Phyllis Hayes Perry, and the couple’s 15 month old granddaughter, Madison Jaylaya Perry, all of Colerain, lost their lives in the accident just off Wakelon Road (SR 1001) in Bertie County.

According to an accident report filed by North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper G.P. Bowman, Mr. Perry was operating a 2004 Toyota SUV traveling west on Wakelon Road near the road’s intersection with Perry School Road (SR 1341) at around 6:25 p.m.

On the rain-slick roadway the vehicle veered off the right side and traveled through a ditch apparently at a high rate of speed.

Trooper Bowman’s report showed that speed was a contributing factor to the accident.

Approximately 370 feet after leaving the roadway, the SUV came to rest when it violently struck a tree located in the side yard of an unoccupied house and caught fire, apparently from the jolting impact. Neighbors who asked not to be identified told the News-Herald they heard a loud boom and at least two of them rushed from their homes to the accident scene to offer assistance.

In the meantime, the family was trapped inside the blazing inferno with the vehicle by that time totally engulfed in flames, hampering immediate rescue efforts.

According to neighbors, Bertie EMS was quickly called and responding to the accident were the Colerain and Perrytown fire departments, Bertie EMS, and the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office along with the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Tragically, despite the valiant rescue attempts no one was able to save the driver and passenger, nor the child believed to have been in the back seat.

In Windsor, Mrs. Perry’s brother, Bertie High boys basketball coach Kelvin Hayes, was gearing up for his team’s game that night with Hertford County when he received a call to come to the scene.  He arrived a short time later still dressed for the game.

Hayes told the News-Herald on Monday that his sister, a double mastectomy cancer survivor who worked at Vidant Home Health Care in Windsor, and his brother-in-law, a welder at Nucor, were the kind of people who would help anybody.

“She was just always there for people,” Hayes said. “A strong all-around good person she was. Her husband was like that too; he worked every day and worked real hard to try to get his kids to go to college. They were just good people.”

Hayes said the entire family appreciates the calls and visits of support that have come from friends and family.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time, but Hayes says the memorial service will be held at Bertie Early College on Saturday. The starting time for that service has yet to be determined.