RALEIGH — Nearly a dozen motorists stopped along Interstate 440 on Saturday afternoon to help a couple trapped in their car and the driver of a pickup truck that had crossed the median and hit them, according to recordings of 911 calls made public Monday.
The crash killed former Garner Economic Development Director Rex Houston Todd and seriously injured his wife, retired Garner town Manager Mary Lou Todd. Police have charged the pickup truck driver, Jacob Alexander Press of Raleigh, with drunken driving, careless and reckless driving, felony death by motor vehicle and felony serious injury by motor vehicle.
Both Press, 21, and Mary Lou Todd, 66, remained hospitalized Monday but are expected to survive, said Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue.
Sughrue said investigators had not completed an accident report in part because the crash “was fairly complex.” The accident occurred about 5:15 p.m. in the westbound lanes of I-440 near Jones Franklin Road, just before the exit onto Interstate 40.
A woman who called 911 told an emergency dispatcher there had been “a horrible accident” involving two vehicles that collided and then skidded off the side of the road into a stand of trees. Airbags were hanging out of both vehicles, and smoke could be seen coming from the truck.
The 911 caller, whose name was not made public, told the dispatcher that the pickup truck was traveling in the eastound lanes of I-440 when it crossed the median and “came all the way across four lanes of traffic” before it collided with a Toyota sedan.
The caller said she and her husband were traveling just behind the Toyota when the accident happened. She counted at least 10 people, including her husband, who got out to help. Her husband pulled Press out of the window of the pickup, while another group of motorists urged the Todds, trapped inside of their sedan, to stay conscious.
“They won’t stay awake,” the woman said about the couple. “People are talking to them to keep them awake.”
Rex Todd, 67, began his career with Garner as community development director in 1984. He served as director of economic development for the last nine years of his career before retiring in 2000. He led early efforts to revitalize downtown and also helped save the old high school building, which is now used for senior apartments and the Garner Performing Arts Center.
Mary Lou Todd was hired by the town in 1971 and worked her way up from clerk/cashier to become the first female town manager in Wake County in 2000. She retired in 2007.
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