The fatal three-car wreck on Interstate 40 involving a Garner man, whose car went under a cable median barrier, wasn’t the first of its kind in the past year.
Paul Rosequist of Garner died Tuesday afternoon, after an SUV caused him to swerve through a wire guard rail on Interstate 40 and into oncoming traffic, striking one car which then hit another.
Tuesday morning’s fatal accident was the third instance in a little more than a year in which a car went over or under the cable median barrier and onto the other side of the Interstate.
On Jan. 15, 2014, Ramsis Matta Soliman of Raleigh was near mile marker 322 on I-40 in Johnston County, when his SUV went off the left side of the road. He over-corrected and went off the right side.
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The Ford Expedition then flipped onto its roof, went off the left side again and flipped over the barrier, landing on its wheels. Soliman died at the scene after an EMS crew tried to save him.
Catherine Obie was killed Jan. 26, 2014, after a Pontiac Grand Am traveling in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 40 jumped the median, went airborne, landed in the westbound lanes and crashed into her white Chrysler. The driver of the Pontiac Grand Am was Brandon Lewis Jefferson of Budd Lake, N.J., who was charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.
The crash occurred in the westbound lanes of the interstate between Gorman Street and Lake Wheeler Road.
Cable median barriers are not 100 percent effective in preventing cars from going through, State Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Gordon said.
“Sometimes vehicles will jump over, go under, or get tangled in the guard rail,” he said.
Rosequist’s car went under the cable median barrier. After the state Highway Patrol concludes its investigation the N.C. Department of Transportation will investigate the effectiveness of the guard rails. That is standard procedure when a fatal wreck happens.
Steve Abott, spokesman for NC DOT, said in the other accidents there were no recommendations to make any changes to the cable median barrier.
He said of the 80,000 miles of road in the state, there 750 miles of cable barrier that separate opposite sides of the Interstate. He said cable barriers are less expensive to maintain.
In an email, State Traffic Engineer Kevin Lacy said the cable barriers are designed to slow down a vehicle when it hits and redirect it.
“The pros are that the cable barrier absorbs more energy when a vehicle hits the barrier rather than the vehicle and its occupants absorbing the energy of the crash,” said Lacy. “The cons are that it is more forgiving, and therefore there will be some situations where a vehicle may breach the system. However, when you look at the overall outcome, the more forgiving nature of the cable results in a net savings of lives and injuries, even considering the very small portion of breaches.”
Lacy added that as the barrier stiffens, the probability of being injured or killed increases. Concrete barriers and metal guard rails have a stronger impact when hit than cable barriers.
“However, these probabilities are much smaller than that of an across median crash,” he said.
Needle in a haystack
The Highway Patrol says Rosequist, 62, was driving a Pontiac Trans Am east on I-40 near the Jones Sausage Road exit about 11:15 a.m. Tuesday when a burgundy Chevrolet or GMC Envoy changed lanes and caused him to veer into the median.
The Trans Am then struck the wire guardrail and crossed into the westbound lanes of I-40 before colliding with a Chevrolet Impala driven by Elizabeth Langdon, 66, of Clayton.
After impact, the Impala then swerved to the right, striking a Kia Sorrento driven by Judith Barefoot, 70, of Clayton. Both the Impala and the Sorrento traveled onto the right shoulder of westbound I-40, where they came to a stop.
All three were transported to WakeMed.
Rosequist later died. The status of the other two victims is uncertain.
Authorities are still seeking the public’s help in locating the SUV driver. Gordon said it will be tough to find whoever it was. The SUV did not make contact with Rosequist’s vehicle, he said.
“No tag. No driver. “It’s almost like finding a needle in a haystack,” Gordon said. “Unless someone was there that day and saw the incident.” Gordon said witnesses only described what the SUV looked like.
“Even if the vehicles don’t hit the vehicle,” Gordon added, drivers should stop and report what happened.
The SUV that authorities are looking for was last seen traveling east on I-40. The state Highway Patrol asks anyone who knows anything about the SUV or its driver to call 919-733-3861 or 919-733-4400.