One day after he was killed in a car crash on Interstate 40, Chase Morgan Rodgers’ family honored his memory by adorning their Cary home with items that reminded them of his accomplishments.
A teenage driver who briefly dated Rodgers was behind the wheel of his Toyota on Thursday when it ran off the road, crashed into a tree and killed him instantly, police said.
The driver, Anastaysia Katherine Bergeron, 18, of Bunnlevel, has been charged with underage impairment by something other than alcohol, according to a police accident report.
“It’s just so sad,” Rodgers’ father, Darryl Rodgers, said late Friday. “I’m going to miss Chase a lot. It was so much potential there that won’t have the opportunity to be fulfilled. He was so creative.”
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Chase Rodgers, 20, was a physical fitness buff who set a record for chin-ups at a local fitness center. An Eagle Scout, he played football at Cary High School until he transferred to Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., his junior year and graduated in 2012.
“His Eagle Scout uniform is hanging up in the kitchen,” his uncle, Eric Wood of Greenville, S.C., said late Friday. “His Hargrave hat and his trophies for football, baseball and soccer. A Pop Warner football sticker.”
The family had also pulled out yearbooks from his junior and senior years at Hargrave.
“Chase, he was a real good guy, with a kind heart,” Wood said. “He got his Eagle Scout badge right after he graduated from high school. He worked at a pet store. He started there in January. He enjoyed taking care of the animals.”
His family said Rodgers was a small, quiet young man; he weighed just 145 pounds yet was an all-conference cornerback in high school and earned an athletic scholarship to Lindenwood-Belleville University in Belleville, Ill.
“He gave it everything he had every time he went out there,” his father said.
Chase Rodgers left college before the end of his second semester and had lived at home with his parents and younger brother Justin since February of last year while he figured out what to do next with his life.
Driver may face more charges
Bergeron, 18, may face other charges, including adult-level driving while impaired and possibly felony or misdemeanor death by vehicle. It’s against state law for a person under the age of 21 to drive a motor vehicle while consuming any alcohol or other controlled substance.
Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said an accident reconstruction unit will try to determine what caused the Toyota that Bergeron was driving to run off the road.
The accident happened at 4:49 p.m. in the eastbound lanes of I-40 near Trenton and Trinity roads. A motorist who called 911 to report the accident said she was traveling behind the Toyota as it attempted to merge into another lane, then swerved because another car was already in the lane.
“It swerved out of the way, but then it lost control,” the 911 caller, who was not identified, told an emergency dispatcher.
Darryl Rodgers said he heard the same story, that Bergeron tried to switch lanes but did not see the car pulling alongside the Toyota in her blind spot.
“They blew their horn,” he said about the vehicle in the other lane.
Chase Rodgers was riding in the front passenger seat, according to the police report. Bergeron and Christian Michael Miller, 18, of Ivy Lane in Cary, who was sitting without a seat belt in the middle of the back seat, were seriously hurt, the report said.
Bergeron was reported to be in serious condition and Miller in good condition Friday at WakeMed in Raleigh.
The posted speed limit in that section of I-40 is 65 mph. Accident investigators estimated the Toyota was going 73 mph when it went off the highway and 61 mph when it hit the tree.
Darryl Rodgers said his son was a Christian who liked to quote the Bible. The day before the accident, he gave his son a medallion that read, “Put On The Full Armor of God.” He said his son was supposed to wear it around his neck, but he did not know if he was wearing it when he died.
“I don’t know where it is,” Darryl Rodgers said. “I don’t know if he was wearing it. They didn’t find it at the scene of the accident.”
Staff writer Ron Gallagher and news researcher Peggy Neal contributed to this report.