Chapel Hill News

Orange sheriff causes 2nd wreck, plans to retire

Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass
Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass N&O archive photo

Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass says he won’t run for re-election in 2014.

He will be 80 years old.

“You better believe it,” he said Friday when asked if it’s true his eighth term in office will be his last.

The Orange County native is the state’s longest-serving sheriff, with 32 years under his belt. He also might be the oldest sheriff in North Carolina. Pendergrass was first elected in 1982 after 26 years as a Chapel Hill police officer.

On Aug. 19, the sheriff was involved in his second car accident this year when N.C. Highway Patrol officers say he turned left in front of an oncoming car in rush-hour traffic at Old N.C. 86 and Interstate 40 and was struck. Although the report says Pendergrass caused the accident by failing to yield the right of way, he was not charged, Patrol Sgt. M. Stuart said.

The accident happened around 5:21 p.m. as Pendergrass, of 400 Severin St., Chapel Hill, was driving his personal car, a 2002 Ford Explorer, south on Old N.C. 86. He was only going about 10 mph when the accident occurred, the report stated. The other driver, a 38-year-old woman from Efland who struck Pendergrass’ car with her 2013 Ford SUV, was driving north on N.C. 86 at roughly 45 mph, the report stated.

The maximum speed limit for that stretch of road is 45 mph. The wreck damaged the front right corner of the sheriff’s car. McKoy’s car also had unspecified damage to the front left.

Although Pendergrass was wearing a purple cast on his left arm Friday, he said it was not related to the wreck. He declined to answer further questions.

It was the second wreck for Pendergrass in eight months.

The first happened at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 4 near the Orange County Courthouse at the intersection of Churton Street and Margaret Lane in Hillsborough. The state trooper who responded to that accident said in his report that he saw smoke and stopped at the scene of a three-car collision. Pendergrass, whose 2002 Ford Explorer was at the back of the group of cars, told the officer that the stoplight changed quickly, causing the two cars in front of him to stop, the report states. Pendergrass was not able to stop in time and rear-ended a Hillsborough man’s 2011 Hyundai Sonata rental car, pushing it into a Hillsborough woman’s 2006 Ford Mustang.

All three cars remained drivable, although Pendergrass’ car and the Sonata sustained some damage. No one was injured or charged in that accident either.

Filing for the 2014 election opens Feb. 10, 2014. Qualified candidates must be 21 years old and have lived in Orange County for at least one year. The term of office is four years. The primary will be held May 6, with the general election set for Nov. 4, 2014.