RALEIGH — Lorenzo Charles, the basketball player who clinched N.C. State's 1983 NCAA championship with a game-winning dunk, died this afternoon in a bus accident on Interstate 40. He was the driver of an Elite Tours bus that crashed at exit 290 near the I-40/N.C. 54 interchange in western Raleigh.
Jim Sughrue, a Raleigh police spokesman, confirmed Charles is the bus driver.
Firefighters used the jaws of life to extricate Charles' body from the bus.
The crash blocked two lanes of westbound Interstate 40 at Chapel Hill Road in West Raleigh during rush hour traffic. The two lanes were still closed at 8:30 p.m., leaving one lane of travel, Sughrue said in a news release. The lanes likely would be reopened by 10 p.m., he said.
Traffic from the blocked lanes is being detoured up an exit ramp, across Chapel Hill Road and back onto I-40, according to Raleigh police. The investigation is continuing.
News of Charles death spread quickly and widely among Wolfpack fans and others whom he had touched.
New NCSU head basketball coach Mark Gottfried played against Charles in the 1985 NCAA tournament. The two reminisced about that game, a Wolfpack win, when Charles visited the new coaching staff last week on campus.
He had a big smile on his face, and he was so full of life, Gottfried said. We lost a great one, and Im not just talking about the basketball player. He had a great personality.
Charles reach in the sports world went beyond his contributions on the court. He drove for the Duke lacrosse team and became a part of the family, coach John Danowski said Monday. Danowski had Charles talk to the team during the NCAA tournament in 2010, before the Blue Devils won the national title.
Its great that he scored that winning basket, but he was so much more than that, Danowski said. Everyone here loved him. We are all heartbroken.
Gottfried also tweeted his condolences Monday night.
"My heart goes out to the family of Lorenzo Charles," he said. "We lost a great person. Just reconnected last week. Will never forget his smile!"