Eastern Wake News

Severe wreck brings community together

The 2007 BMW driven by Heather Griffin that hit a 1991 Chevrolet SUV head-on at the scene of the Jan. 8 accident.
The 2007 BMW driven by Heather Griffin that hit a 1991 Chevrolet SUV head-on at the scene of the Jan. 8 accident. COURTESY OF DAWN GRIFFIN

After a head-on crash, two young women have remained in the hospital for nearly two weeks. Although they did not know each other, they had mutual friends and their families have seen the community rally around the teenagers.

As of Jan. 21, 18-year-old Heather Griffin, a Zebulon resident, remained in WakeMed’s neuro intensive care unit, breathing on her own but dealing with severe injuries to the left side of her body.

Maria Loiacono, also 18 and from Zebulon, suffered five broken bones, including two broken legs and her left clavicle, and suffered a stroke after surgery in the hospital that sent her into a coma for several days, according to her CaringBridge.org profile. She was out of the intensive care unit but remained in the hospital as of Jan. 21.

The community has rallied around the girls. Their families are becoming friends, praying together, and a local church has helped fund hotel costs. Griffin’s GoFundMe page had raised more than $4,100 and Loiacono had raised about $1,100 as of Wednesday – nearly half of their respective goals.

The wreck occurred Jan. 8 as Griffin was headed west on Bissette Road near the Johnston County line in her 2007 BMW. She crossed the center line, hitting Loiacono’s eastbound 1999 Chevrolet SUV around 4 p.m.

The cars traveled about 100 feet in their direction of travel before stopping, according to police.

Griffin, Loiacono and Loiacono’s passenger, Mitchell Wells, 19 of Clayton were all rushed to WakeMed. Wells had minor injuries.

Estimated damage to both vehicles was about $8,000 each. No alcohol involvement was suspected.

Jonathan Thomas, the state trooper at the scene said the left side of the BMW almost went under the SUV.

“She was definitely a half a car length or more in the other lane,” Thomas said of Griffin.

According to Dawn Griffin, Heather Griffin’s mother, her daughter has had her spleen removed and part of her face rebuilt with eight titanium plates and surgery to her left arm and left eye socket. She suffered a mini stroke from an aneurysm in her neck, damage to her left eye, neck and a broken ankle as well.

“It will be a while before we know if there’s brain injury,” Dawn Griffin said.

Although her jaw is wired shut, Heather Griffin can communicate with a dry erase board and her good right arm. After writing her name and a few words, she wrote “I love u” to her mom.

In the aftermath of the crash, the two families have grown close.

“I’ve never felt so loved. We’re all praying for each other. We’re all in this together,” said Dawn Griffin, who lives in Princeton. “It’s going to be a long road. It’s totally changed my life.”