A Hillsville, Virginia, woman was killed Wednesday morning in a collision between two sport utility vehicles at the intersection of U.S. 601 and Interstate 74 near the Sheetz convenience store just outside Mount Airy.
The victim was identified as Penny Triplett, 30, whose street address in Hillsville was not available, one of 12 total occupants in the two SUVs.
Triplett was a passenger in a 2001 Ford Explorer that was struck by a 2007 Pontiac Torrent after its driver ran a red light while coming from the off-ramp of I-74 onto U.S. 601, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol, which investigated the crash.
Reva Michelle Brown, 31, of Charleston, West Virginia, the driver of the other vehicle involved, has been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle, failure to stop for a red light and no operator’s license in the wake of the crash.
It occurred about 10:20 a.m. as the Ford Explorer was southbound on U.S. 601 toward Dobson, with five passengers aboard in all. It was being driven by Robert Ray Roberts, 37, of Lexington.
As the Ford approached the eastbound off-ramp from the interstate, the Pontiac Torrent went through the red light there and struck the Explorer on the passenger side.
“And that caused it to turn over several times,” said Sgt. J.M. Church of the Highway Patrol, relaying accounts from Trooper B.S. Stokes, who investigated the collision.
Triplett was riding in the rear passenger area on the right side of the Explorer which was struck, and was not wearing a seat belt.
“And she was thrown out of the vehicle,” Church said.
Both SUVs were heavily damaged and came to rest a good distance apart from each other in the southbound section of U.S. 601, where a large amount of debris was scattered from the Ford Explorer.
The other four people in that vehicle were transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. Although one male occupant was thought to have suffered a head injury, none of those individuals received life-threatening injuries.
Meanwhile, the seven people in the Pontiac Torrent suffered only minor injuries, Church said.
He mentioned that those occupants included two small children who were buckled into safety seats positioned on both the right and left sides of the rear passenger section. Two adults were cramped between them wearing the same seat belt, while another adult was riding in the rear hatch area.
No other names of passengers were available from the Highway Patrol.
Church said no drug or alcohol impairment was suspected on the part of Brown, the operator of the Pontiac Torrent, who voluntarily submitted to a blood sample.
“She’s been very cooperative,” Church said of the driver from West Virginia, and “was very remorseful about what had happened.”
Despite being charged with death by vehicle, no bond figure was set in the case and Brown was released on a citation.
“That was the call of the Surry County magistrate,” Church said.
A large contingent of Highway Patrol, Mount Airy police and fire department, Surry County Emergency Medical Service and other public safety personnel converged on the scene after the accident.
It caused traffic to be backed up on the southbound portion of U.S. 601 for about a half-mile toward Mount Airy and emergency personnel were directing a constant stream of vehicles off the interstate at that location.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.