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2 girls died after NC trooper tries to spin-out fleeing van; investigation deepens

One passenger, Maria Lopez Carbajal – her obituary listed her name as Maria Asucena Carbijal Lopez – died at the scene
One passenger, Maria Lopez Carbajal – her obituary listed her name as Maria Asucena Carbijal Lopez – died at the scene Image captured from Leavitt Funeral Home

The State Bureau of Investigation has opened a criminal use-of-force investigation into an N.C. Highway Patrol trooper’s attempt to stop a fleeing vehicle in Union County that ended in a crash last week, killing two teenage girls.

Trooper D. A. Motsinger, an eight-year veteran assigned to Union County, attempted a “precise immobilization technique,” known as a PIT maneuver, to stop a speeding Dodge minivan whose driver refused to pull over on March 28.

Authorities have said the van left U.S. 74 just across the Anson County line and flipped several times. Three of the four teenagers inside were thrown from the vehicle.

The results of the SBI investigation will be reported to the local prosecutor, who will decide whether the trooper’s use of force to stop the van was justified, spokeswoman Patty McQuillan said.

The PIT maneuver is an intentional collision by the trooper with the fleeing vehicle. It’s designed to lift the rear wheels off the pavement and make the vehicle spin out.

Experts say the move can be very effective, but note that minivans are top-heavy and have small tires, making them more likely to flip.

Highway Patrol policy on forced vehicle stops says the maneuver should not be used unless the officer “reasonably believes there are no children or other innocent passengers occupying the violator vehicle.”

The SBI said all four occupants of the van, including its driver, were 15.

One passenger, Maria Lopez Carbajal – her obituary listed her name as Maria Asucena Carbijal Lopez – died at the scene. She was the sister of the van’s driver, Osiel Carbajal. The SBI would not say whether Carbajal has been charged. The obituary did not list where she lived, but said she attended church in Cheraw, S.C. Family could not be reached for comment.

Passenger Kandy Casterjon died at a hospital after the crash. A third passenger, Jonathan Thomas, was seriously hurt.

The Union County chase began at around midnight.

“From my past experience at night, I have been in situations where I was unable to see whether there were passengers,” said Sgt. Michael Baker, a patrol spokesman. “That is probable” in Motsinger’s case, he added.

Troopers aren’t supposed to attempt the PIT maneuver at speeds over 40 mph unless they got updated training in 2015, Patrol policy says. Motsinger did have that training, removing that restriction, the Patrol said.

The SBI and Highway Patrol are silent on most other aspects of the incident, including the speeds involved.

“Details of the investigation will not be released as we are still gathering facts of what actually occurred,” McQuillan said by email. The SBI asks that anyone with information on the incident or the participants contact investigators at 704-454-5264.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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