2016 ends on sour note

Published 10:28 am Thursday, January 5, 2017

The final few days of 2016 turned deadly on Roanoke-Chowan area roadways.

The Ahoskie office of the North Carolina Highway Patrol reports three deaths in two separate accidents over a span of just eight days.

Two of those deaths occurred in the early morning hours of Dec. 22 on US 13, approximately 2.5 miles south of Windsor.

There, according to a report filed by NCHP Trooper C.W. Godwin, Luis Figueroa, 22, of Grifton and 30-year-old Juan Martinez both lost their lives when the vehicle in which they were passengers lost control and ran off the road, first striking a tree before coming to rest in a ditch.

Trooper Godwin’s report showed that Saul Espinoza, 20, of Washington was behind the wheel of a 2003 Nissan passenger car at around 6:02 a.m. The vehicle was traveling north on US 13 at the time of the accident. The report showed that the vehicle broke in half after impact with the tree.

Figueroa, a passenger in the front right seat, was wearing a seat belt. However, the strap broke and he was ejected. He died at the scene.

Martinez, who was seated in the back (right) seat, was not wearing a seat belt, according to Godwin’s report. He was ejected from the vehicle and also died at the scene.

The right side of the vehicle struck the tree.

Another passenger (back seat, left) in the vehicle, 21-year-old Gerardo Mendoza of Washington, along with the driver were treated and released from area hospitals.

Godwin’s report showed that speed was a contributing factor in the accident.

Charges are pending against Espinoza. However, NCHP Troop A / District 2 First Sgt. Mike Warren said that Espinoza has not been located since his release from the hospital.

Eight days later (Dec. 30), an Ahoskie man died as the result of a single vehicle on NC 11 in Hertford County.

Walter Lee Lassiter, 50, whose address was listed on Liverman Mill Road, died at the scene of the 3:12 p.m. wreck that occurred 3.5 miles southwest of Ahoskie.

According to a report filed by NCHP Trooper S.C. Hegmann, Lassiter was operating a 2004 Ford F-150 truck south on NC 11. Witnesses to the accident allege that Lassiter’s truck was traveling at a high rate of speed as it was passing two vehicles.

Hegmann’s report showed that as Lassiter was steering his truck back into the southbound lane, it ran off the right side of the highway at which time the driver overcorrected his steering, causing him to lose control of the truck.

The truck, now skidding sideways, crossed the centerline and across the northbound lane where it ran off the road and struck several trees.

Lassiter died at the scene.

Speed was listed as a contributing factor in the fatal wreck.

The NCHP’s Troop A / District 2 (Ahoskie office) ended 2016 with 16 fatalities. Seven of those deaths occurred in Hertford County; six were in Bertie County; and three were in Gates County.

Thirteen motorists were killed on District 2 roadways in 2015. 

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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