An ongoing investigation of a fatal car accident during a weekend police pursuit in Mount Airy has revealed that the family of the 15-year-old driver involved was unaware she had taken the car.
“It was just a bad decision on the part of the juvenile to get behind the wheel,” Police Chief Dale Watson said Wednesday. The resulting crash into the Ararat River of the speeding vehicle around midnight Saturday claimed the life of the girl’s brother, Sheldon Wright II, 9, of 147 Van Hoy Way, Pilot Mountain.
While the investigation of the fatal wreck is not complete, no charges will be filed against the girl’s mother, identified as Channa Harrison Wright, or Wright’s husband, Sheldon B. Wright I.
“What happened was not a result of anything that the parents consented to or gave permission to assist. They had no idea what was going on — that the juvenile was taking the car,” Watson emphasized.
“So they did not aid in it — they weren’t aware what was (occurring).”
After the 15-year-old got access to the 1999 Ford Contour with her younger sibling as a passenger, she later wound up on U.S. 52-South in Mount Airy. There, a patrol officer headed in the opposite direction clocked the vehicle going 78 mph in a 45 mph zone, Watson said.
Officer Ryan Bennett of the Mount Airy Police Department turned around and attempted a traffic stop at U.S. 52’s intersection with U.S. 601.
However, the juvenile — whose name has not been released because of her age — did not pull over and a brief pursuit ensued down U.S. 601 south toward Walmart. At that point, it continued onto Edgewood Drive and then to Carter Street, which passes through Mount Airy Industrial Park.
As the Ford Contour proceeded along Carter Street toward a sharp curve near a bridge over the Ararat River, the driver lost control and the vehicle ran off the left side of the roadway. It struck a tree before coming to rest partially submerged in the river.
The boy was said to have been pinned in the passenger seat against a rock and was pronounced dead at the scene. The 15-year-old driver suffered minor injuries and was treated at Northern Hospital of Surry County and released. No charges have been filed against her.
Sheldon Wright II was a student at Pilot Mountain Elementary School and a member of the Cardinals Little League football team that contains players from the Pilot Mountain, Westfield and Shoals areas.
“We are saddened by the events,” the Mount Airy police chief said of the fatal wreck on behalf of the city police force and other public safety personnel who responded. “It just touches the community all over.”
Watson added, “This has truly left an impact on our department.”
Pursuit Was In Order
The police chief said that Officer Bennett, a veteran member of the department with about 7 years’ service, followed proper procedure in electing to pursue the vehicle. “The speed was considerably above the posted limit,” Watson pointed out.
In such incidents, an officer must weigh the potential harmful consequences of not initiating a pursuit against what might happen during an apprehension, according to Watson. In Saturday night’s chase, the danger posed by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed down a roadway often busy even at midnight outweighed risks of trying to force a stop, the chief indicated.
“There’s always unknowns involved,” Watson said.
Officer Bennett was alone in his patrol vehicle.
A number of elements are yet to be resolved before the investigation is concluded.
“We’re still conducting interviews with the parties involved and doing the reconstruction of the crash itself,” Watson said. Accident reconstructions often are conducted by Mount Airy police after fatalities in the city limits.
“Once the investigation is concluded, we will speak with the family members involved and we will speak with the district attorney’s office and then we will move forward in the best way for all concerned,” the police chief said.
Investigators had not consulted with the district attorney’s office as of Wednesday.
The inquiry likely will not be completed until early January, according to Watson.
Boy’s Funeral Is Today
Sheldon Wright II was the youngest of Channa Harrison Wright’s children. He is survived by five sisters and one brother, according to obituary information.
Funeral services are scheduled for 1 p.m. today at Genesis Full Gospel Church, 433 Sparger Road, Mount Airy. Burial will be in Skyline Memory Gardens.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.