A hit-and-run driver who police said caused the death of a good Samaritan had four previous convictions for driving while impaired, court records show.
The Thursday night wreck on the U.S. 74 bridge across the Catawba River killed a Charlotte truck driver hauling tires who had stopped to help another motorist.
The driver of the hit-and-run vehicle, Charla Dean Davis, 44, of Charlotte, turned herself in to Belmont police about 8:30 a.m. Friday, authorities said.
Officers interviewed her, but no charges were filed. The case will be presented to the Gaston County District Attorney's Office on Monday for review. Investigators say they will try to determine whether alcohol was involved.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Belmont Police Chief David James said the truck driver, 40-year-old Ronnie Eudy, “was trying to do the right thing and stopped to help.”
“Your heart goes out to him,” James said. “He didn't know any of these people.”
Here's what happened, according to Belmont police:
Calvin Adams of Dallas, N.C., was driving a 2003 Ford SUV eastbound with six passengers on Wilkinson Boulevard.
Around 10 p.m., the 57-year-old suffered a stroke or seizure. Adams managed to stop, and two of his passengers got out and walked to the driver's side to help him.
Eudy then pulled up from behind to help.
That's when Davis' westbound Saturn SUV plowed into the pedestrians, police said. She kept going.
Eudy, a father of three, died early Friday from his injuries. Betty Faye Adams, who had gotten out of Adams' car to help, was in critical condition on Friday at Carolinas Medical Center. The other passenger who had gotten out, Jerry Ames Leach, 47, of Kings Mountain was treated and released.
Adams was in critical condition due to the stroke or seizure he suffered.
Police put out an alert for Davis' vehicle, and it was found about 3 a.m. Friday in a parking lot at an apartment building in Mount Holly.
According to court records, she was found guilty of driving while impaired in 2006, 2001, 1989 and 1988. She could not be reached for comment Friday night.
Strudy Todd, who identified himself as a friend of Davis, told WCNC-TV, the Observer's news partner, that his friend didn't realize she had struck people on the bridge.
“As far as she knew, somebody pulled out and she grazed them,” he said. “She just panicked.”
“When she found out that one person had died, she just lost it, mentally,” Todd told WCNC.
Eudy had been a truck driver for seven years. He ran loads mostly at night, when the traffic was lighter, said his father-in-law, Ralph Ferrell.
On Thursday night, Ferrell said, Eudy was on his way to Lincolnton to drop off a load of tires. Eudy had another job that day, but planned to be back by Friday evening, Ferrell said, in time to celebrate his daughter's 18th birthday.
The wreck happened about two miles from Eudy's house, right in front of his truck.
Ferrell said Eudy was on his cell phone with his wife when the wreck happened. He told her he thought someone might need help and that he was getting out – something he's done before.
“If he'd see somebody on the side of the road like an elderly couple trying to change a tire, he would get out,” Ferrell said. “If he saw somebody that had car trouble, he kept tools in his truck and he was a good mechanic and he'd fix the car for free. That was all normal for him.”
James, the police chief, said the U.S. 74 over the Catawba has no shoulders.
“It's a four-lane road, but it's pretty narrow on the bridge,” he said. “It's no place for an emergency.”
He described Thursday's hit-and-run incident as “very tragic.”
“We all have goodness in our heart and want to help others,” James said. “The truck driver paid the ultimate price for trying.”