10/22/13 — Van driver dies from injuries in crash

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Van driver dies from injuries in crash

By John Joyce
Published in News on October 22, 2013 1:46 PM

The Dudley man whose van went off the road along U.S. 117 Alternate and crashed into a pine tree Friday has died, officials at Vidant Medical Center said.

Mark James Wheaton, 50, was transferred to Vidant Medical Center late Friday with injuries sustained when his head hit the passenger window of the white Ford Econoline van he was driving. He had not been wearing his seat belt, according to the N.C. State Highway Patrol.

Alcohol is believed to have been a factor leading up to the accident, as was speed. Investigators estimated Wheaton was traveling north at about 75 mph at the time of the accident.

Witnesses said he moved into oncoming traffic before swerving to avoid them and driving off the roadway into a dense patch of pine trees.