Local motorist drowns in floodwaters

Published 2:04 pm Monday, October 10, 2016

SUNBURY – Flooding from Hurricane Matthew has claimed a local life.

Thomas Elliott Saunders, 75, of Sunbury was found inside his pick up truck here Monday morning, the victim of an apparent drowning after his vehicle was swept off the road early Sunday morning by floodwaters crossing NC 32.

North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper J.K. Jones said Saunders was traveling south on NC 32, just past the Sunbury Fire Department near the intersection of Silver Springs Road, around 1 a.m. Sunday.

“From what we’ve been able to determine, Mr. Saunders drove his truck into a flooded area on the road,” Jones said. “The water at that time was moving fairly rapidly across the road, which swept the truck off the right side of the road, submerging it in deeper water. The truck overturned, trapping Mr. Saunders inside.”

Jones added that members of Saunders family reported him missing Sunday afternoon.

“From what I was able to learn, Mr. Saunders, who resides south of the area that was flooded, apparently drove north through the same flooded area in an effort to get to a convenience store in Sunbury where he was scheduled to pick up his wife who had been on a charter bus trip somewhere up north,” Jones stated. “However, his wife had become ill on the bus, so much to the point where she was taken off the bus and transported to a hospital in Elizabeth City. After learning this, Mr. Saunders apparently was heading back home when the accident occurred.”

Jones added it is believed the accident took place at 1 a.m. Sunday because that was the last “ping” recorded on a cellular transmission tower from a phone in Saunders possession.

The fatality was the 11th of the year in the Highway Patrol’s Troop A / District II area and the third in Gates County.


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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