MOUNT GILEAD — One person is dead and dozens of chickens perished in a pair of rollover wrecks Thursday afternoon in the northwest section of Richmond County.
Joy Rhodes, 57, who was in a red Superior Cranes pickup truck, was heading east on N.C. 73 when the truck drifted off the road and down an embankment, striking a tree and going airborne over small creek before flipping and coming to a rest on its side in the woods just down the road from Little River Winery, according to Trooper Clint Greene with the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Greene said investigators had not determined the cause of the wreck but had ruled out speed as a factor.
First to arrive on the scene were Robert Hornsby and Martin Kimmer, who were heading west after installing an air conditioning unit in Ellerbe. Hornsby said they saw the truck veer off the road and rushed over to help.
They pried the door open with a crowbar and saw Rhodes, 57, on the passenger side — the side the truck landed on — which led Kimmer to believe he may not have been wearing a seat belt. Rhodes was still conscious, Hornsby said, and the two did what they could to keep himconscious until help arrived.
Hornsby said Rhodes was moving his arms but could only mumble, having major head injuries.
When asked what was going through their minds when they saw the wreck, Kimmer said, “We were just hoping he was OK.”
Responding to the scene were the Ellerbe Rescue Squad, Mountain Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Highway Patrol and FirstHealth EMS. Ellerbe Rescue was dispatched at 5:13 p.m.
In a separate incident an hour-and-a-half prior on Cartledge Creek Road, a tractor-trailer full of chickens flipped on its side after going around a curve near Treeces Lake, spilling chickens into the woods and along the shoulder of the road.
Trooper Rodriguez Howze said the driver was taken to a hospital, but no other information on their condition was available at press time.
Howze said the Highway Patrol had not determined the cause of the wreck.
About half the chickens appeared to have been killed, with the survivors sitting among them. At least two were launched down the hill on the east side of the road and into Treeces Branch, a small tributary off the lake.
Chris Yaklin, owner of Mountain Creek Farm, said the chickens were going from his New Ground Farm in Ex-Way to the Mountaire Farms processing plant in Lumber Bridge.
“I spent nine weeks raising them, I hate seeing them here like this,” Yaklin said at the scene. He added that the wreck won’t set him back personally, but it’s a big loss for Mountaire.
“It’s a shame to lose the birds … I hate to see them wasted,” he said.
Yaklin said he was unsure how many were on the truck, but the survivors will continue to the processing plant.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]