Samaritan fell to his death

Driver who helped wreck victims is second to die after falling from bridge.

Staff WritersNovember 29, 2009 

— A 33-year-old man on Friday became the second person in four years to die by falling through a gap between two bridges on the I-440 Beltline, leading to renewed calls for something to be done to prevent more tragedies.

The most recent victim, Carroll Lee Eames Jr. of 7204 Westworth Drive in Willow Spring, pulled over to help after a crash on the Beltline in Raleigh Friday night - circumstances eerily similar to events that resulted in a 2005 death.

The written police report on the accident said Eames had stopped to help after three vehicles collided on the Outer Beltline between Six Forks Road and Glenwood Avenue.

As other motorists swerved to avoid the crash, Eames jumped over a concrete barrier to escape a car that hurtled toward him. On the other side of the barrier was a 30-foot drop to Crabtree Creek, and he fell to his death. Two other people injured in Friday's crash were hospitalized with minor injuries.

Another man was killed in a similar fashion near the same area four years ago. Todd W. Fletcher, 26, died in October 2005 after he fell off the Inner Beltline bridge trying to assist crash victims.

Following the 2005 fatality, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation said the agency would visit the scene and evaluate whether anything needed to be done to keep it from happening again.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said Saturday that NCDOT erected a fence from the concrete barricade on the Inner Beltline side in an apparent attempt to stop anyone from going over the edge.

But there is no such barrier on the Outer Beltline side, where Eames went over on Friday. Meeker said he will ask the agency on Monday to review the bridges.

"Apparently [NCDOT's changes] were not adequate," Meeker said. "Anytime something like this happens, particularly twice, we need to take a good look at it and see what can be done to fix it."

A discarded blue surgical glove like those used by paramedics littered the middle of a greenway that follows the banks of the creek under the bridges Saturday. The gap between the two concrete and steel bridges is about five feet.

A succession of joggers and cyclists on the greenway stopped under the gap between the bridges Saturday afternoon as the sun set. Several appeared to contemplate Eames' tragic drop before moving on.

michael.biesecker@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4698

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