09/10/07 — Three drown after crash

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Three drown after crash

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 10, 2007 2:24 PM

A couple and the woman's 5-year-old son drowned after being submerged in their car off N.C. 55 East near Mount Olive on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.

Trooper A.R. Fowler said he is not sure why Flora Velasquez, 47, of N.C. 55 in Seven Springs, ran off the right side of the road 199 feet before plunging into a small but deep creek at about 1:30 p.m.

Front-seat passenger Vicente Perez, 23, and 5-year-old Daniel, who both lived with Ms. Velazquez, were found dead at the scene, Mar Mac Fire Chief Bill Harrell said.

Alcohol or drugs were not found or suspected. Fowler suspects that a medical problem might have led to the incident, but said he could not be sure without a medical examiner's report.

The creek is about 1.5 miles out of Mount Olive on N.C. 55, the trooper said.

After Ms. Velasquez's 1995 Chevy Monte Carlo crossed the center line repeatedly, the vehicle drove off road and into a creek, completely submerging the vehicle, Fowler said.

The driver never hit the brakes before the vehicle went underwater, he said.

"The car went in nose down," Fowler said. "You couldn't even tell there was a car in the water."

Water in the creek was surprisingly deep, Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said.

"It looked like a big ditch to me," Winders said. "But it's a swamp, about 18 feet deep."

None of the occupants were wearing seat belts, including the 5-year-old, the trooper said.

A child's car seat was installed with a chain in the vehicle, but the child was not properly restrained, the trooper said.

Harrell said the Wayne County Sheriff's Dive Team, the Arr-Mac Water Response Team, and Mount Olive firefighters worked together to remove the bodies from the vehicle.

A local tow truck was later called to drag the vehicle out of the water, Harrell added.

The Mar Mac chief said that a spring-loaded window punch was used to break windows on the vehicle before removing the victims.

But the investigating trooper said even if the occupants had had that tool, they might not have escaped.

"They way the car was in it was so tight down there, I don't know if they would have been able to get out anyway," Fowler said.

More guardrails would probably not have helped either, because the car left the roadway nearly 200 feet before driving into the creek, the trooper said.

"I don't know where they were coming from, but they weren't very far away from home at all," Fowler said.