Save Money in this Sunday's paper

Lawsuit blames Palisades developer for racing deaths

Steve Price didn’t recognize the crumpled car in the middle of N.C. 49 – until he focused on the Mercedes emblem on one wheel.

He started to run for the wreck, but a police officer grabbed him.

“Where you going, boy?” the officer said.

“That’s my wife’s car!” Price shouted.

“You can’t go there, you can’t go there! Go sit down!” the officer ordered, wrapping his arms around Price in a bear hug.

Then Price spotted his young daughter on the ground, three rescue workers attending to her.

Helpless, he walked to a quiet spot and threw up.

Price’s riveting testimony came Thursday in a Mecklenburg courtroom, during the second week of a civil lawsuit against Crescent Resources.

The suit accuses the company, which developed the posh Palisades community off N.C. 49, of negligence by not installing a traffic light at a dangerous intersection with Riverpointe Drive and Grand Palisades Parkway.

It was there at about 6 p.m. on April 4, 2009, that Price’s 45-year-old wife, Cindy Furr, and 2-year-old daughter, Macke, turned left from Riverpointe to go their church. In an instant, Furr’s Mercedes was rammed by a Mitsubishi Eclipse as it raced another car on N.C. 49.

Furr and Macke were killed. Hunter Holt, a 13-year-old passenger in the Mitsubishi driven by Tyler Stasko, died the next day.

Price and Hunter’s parents, Dan and Lisa Holt, are asking for $5 million for each of the victims.

‘Like playing chicken’

Price’s lawyer, Fred DeVore of Charlotte, said Crescent was awarded a conditional zoning to build The Palisades in 2006 that included installing a traffic signal at the N.C. 49 intersection at a cost of $219,718.

“At the time of the crash, the signal had not been funded,” DeVore said.

Crescent has argued that it was required to put up a signal when one was necessary and the city never proved that one was.

The developer also argues that the deaths were caused by the negligence of the two drivers racing at speeds up to 100 mph.

They say a signal may not have prevented the collision.

For years, residents in Riverpointe said a building boom and increased traffic along the N.C. 49 begged for a signal at the Riverpointe and The Palisades developments.

Jason Baker, a Riverpointe resident since 2006, testified he began lobbying Charlotte and state transportation department officials for a signal when he became president of the development’s homeowners association.

“It became very difficult getting out of Riverpointe … with high-speed traffic coming at you in all directions,” Baker said. “It was like playing chicken turning onto 49.”

After several emails to a Charlotte transportation engineer, Baker said he was assured on March 13, 2009, that Crescent would pay for a signal in 30 days.

Installation was set for fall 2009.

Not in time

But three weeks after the email, Stasko of Matthews was driving Hunter Holt and a friend home from Carowinds when he began racing Carlene Atkinson on N.C. 49.

At the Riverpointe/Palisades intersection he plowed into Furr’s Mercedes at about 83 mph, police have said.

In December 2011, a Mecklenburg jury convicted Stasko, 23, of three counts of involuntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to at least three years and nine months in prison. Eight months later, Atkinson, 47, pleaded guilty to three counts of involuntary manslaughter and is serving a sentence of at least two years and eight months.

As the incident was retold over and over by witnesses in court on Thursday, Price quietly sobbed in the fourth row. On the front row, the Holts wept too.

They testified their son was respectful and a good student. He was a football and baseball player, and left his mark with many people, young and old, they said.

He was fussy about his hair. Lisa Holt said two of the few times her son was angry with her was when she made him cut his hair and didn’t want him associating with a boy a school.

The Holts’ attorney, Amanda Mingo of Charlotte, asked Dan Holt to read the funeral home bill: $9,287.15.

And the medical bills: $91,802.99.

Rarely without her daughter

Price and Furr had waited into their 40s to have children. Furr miscarried a first pregnancy.

But then McAllister, shortened to Macke, came along and Price spoiled her with Pepsis and bubble gum.

“Her mom wanted her to eat carrots and lettuce – healthy things,” he said.

Furr, a Winthrop University assistant English professor and music director at the family’s church, was rarely without their daughter, even taking her to faculty meetings.

She was a marathon runner, skier and kick boxer.

Thursdays were Price’s day with Macke. A plumber, he’d pick her up to go eat chicken nuggets.

On April 4, 2009, he’d finished mowing the grass when Furr and Macke came out to go to a Saturday evening church service, where she would sing and lead the choir.

His wife told Price to get dinner and they’d be back and eat together.

As Steve put up the lawn mower, he heard a strange sound on N.C. 49 – sirens following.

He jumped in his truck and took off for the intersection.

Buried together

Shortly after he recognized his wife’s car, police covered it. When they put Macke in an ambulance, an officer sat him in a police car and followed.

The ambulance’s siren was blaring and lights flashing. But just as they passed by their church, seven miles from their home, the siren silenced, and the lights went dim.

Price knew Macke had died.

More than 1,500 came to the funeral for Cindy Furr and Macke.

Price arranged for his wife and Macke to be buried together – mother cradling their daughter in her arm.

Perlmutt: 704-358-5061
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK
Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
Your 2 Cents
Share your opinion with our Partners
Learn More