11/12/09 — Man, 82, killed while crossing U.S. 70

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Man, 82, killed while crossing U.S. 70

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on November 12, 2009 1:46 PM

A longtime Wilber's Barbecue employee was struck and killed early this morning on U.S. 70 after his vehicle got stuck in a median in front of the restaurant, Goldsboro police said.

Ralph McKinley Garris, 82, died at the scene after trying to cross the eastbound lanes of U.S. 70, trying to walk to his place of employment, police said.

The weather and "poor visibility" might have played a role in the fatal accident, police said.

A Postal Service truck driven by Guy Nelson Basden, 74, of Kinston struck Garris, according to a press release issued by police Capt. M.D. West.

Police Maj. Mike Hopper said a complete report of the accident had not been finished by early this morning.

Hopper and West both said the investigation will continue into the accident, and that no charges have yet been filed.

Officer Jay Holland, a member of the Goldsboro Police Department Specialized Traf-fic Enforcement Unit, is in charge of investigating the accident.

Garris had worked at Wilber Shirley's restaurant for more than 40 years, Shirley said today.

The 82-year-old started the job while he was still a brick mason by trade, Shirley said, and started opening the restaurant for Shirley around 4:30 every morning.

He retired several years ago, and his health was beginning to decline, but Garris refused to give up his job, the restaurant owner said.

"I just give him something to do. He didn't have a wife, he was never married," Shirley said. "This gave him somewhere to go every morning, somewhere to give him a place in life."

Garris' primary job was opening the restaurant, helping waitresses who showed up early for the breakfast shift, Shirley said.

"He was real dedicated, a personal friend of mine, very honest, and he was just a perfect gentleman for the people," Shirley said. "It's just one of those tragic losses that you have."

Hopper said that while the investigation continues into the cause of the accident, he is advising drivers to be especially careful today and tomorrow because of the large amount of rain that has fallen over the past 48 hours.

"You know, there's nothing wrong with driving below the speed limit. I know they've designed the roads for the water to run off," Hopper said. "But unless you keep your tires in great shape, and keep them inflated right, you can hydroplane really quick. Just because the speed limit says 55 doesn't mean you have to drive 55 miles per hour. Inclement weather may justify going slower than that."