RALEIGH — Police think the driver of a car that crashed into a tree late Tuesday night, killing him and his passenger, had been drinking alcohol before getting behind the wheel.
It was the third fatal accident in the city in as many days, and police say alcohol played a role in at least two of them. Altogether, five people were killed.
Lawrence George Bloomer of Cedar Downs Drive in Raleigh was driving his Acura at an estimated 95 mph when he failed to make a left curve on Nowell Road in West Raleigh, ran off the pavement and hurtled head-on into a tree. Bloomer was pinned in the car for a time and appeared to be unconscious but still alive after the crash, according to a recording of a 911 call released Wednesday.
Bloomers passenger, Kody Russell Bressman of Cary, was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from the car. Emergency workers transported both men to WakeMed in Raleigh, where they died, police reported.
Bloomer, 43, and Bressman, 25, had both recently been hired by Nimble Storage, an information technology company.
The accident took place just before midnight less than a half-mile from Bloomers house. Bloomer was the married father of a young daughter, and his wife is expecting twins.
The crash was also about a half-mile from where a Clayton man died in a pre-dawn accident on Tuesday when his motorbike collided with a school bus at Chapel Hill and Edwards Mill roads. Police think Joe Cephus Shelton III did not have his headlight on at the time of the accident. They are awaiting toxicology reports from the state medical examiners office to determine whether Shelton, 41, was impaired.
Police are still investigating the first of the three crashes, which killed Ormond and Gaynell Bailey of Raleigh early Sunday afternoon when their car was hit head-on in the eastbound lanes of Wade Avenue, near Glenwood Avenue, by a car going the wrong way. The wrong-way driver, Ray Norman Rouse IV of Raleigh, remained in critical condition at WakeMed on Wednesday. He will be charged with driving while impaired and driving the wrong way on a dual-lane highway, according to an accident report.
The accident took place about 1:18 p.m., and investigators are trying to figure out where Rouse was traveling from before the crash and how he managed to end up going west in the eastbound lanes of Wade Avenue, said Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue.
They are still piecing it all together, Sughrue said.
He said police are asking anyone who knows of Rouses activities before the accident to call their tip line at 919-834-4357.
Alcohol was a factor in nearly one-third of fatal vehicle crashes in North Carolina in 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the UNC Chapel Hill Highway Safety Research Center. Drunken driving most often occurs during nighttime hours, when an estimated 2 percent of all drivers on the road in the state have a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, according to the research center.
Sughrue on Wednesday said police dont plan to augment their efforts to monitor speeders and set up traffic checkpoints as a result of the accidents. But, he said, the rash of alcohol-related traffic fatalities may serve as a preventive measure for a problem that defies efforts to exterminate.
We believe that reporting of the five fatalities in about a 21/2-day time span will serve to reinforce the dangers of impaired driving, he said.