By Rob Morris on June 19, 2012
A malfunctioning traffic signal was flashing when the accident took place Oct. 5, touching off an intense debate over responsibility for controlling the intersection and eventually leading to lower speed limits.
Luis Alberto Rodriguez, 44, of Colington failed to appear in court and is now a fugitive, District Attorney Frank Parrish said last week. Federal authorities, he said, have been called in “to cast a wide net and try to locate him.”
Rodriguez has been charged with felony death by vehicle while engaged in the offense of impaired driving, two counts of felonious serious injury by vehicle and driving while impaired.
Rodriguez was hospitalized in Norfolk after the accident. He later posted secured bond that had been reduced to $50,000, according to court records.
Kill Devil Hills police Capt. Gene Johnson said that Rodriguez had been in the country on a temporary visa that has expired. He said the FBI is also working on the case.
Joseph Storie, 51, of Lenoir died from injuries in the wreck. He was a passenger in a pickup truck that rolled over in the accident. The driver of the truck, 43-year-old Paul Thomas, sustained minor injuries and was treated at The Outer Banks Hospital.
Storie’s wife, 37-year-old Alicia, and sister, 45-year-old Christina, were in the back seat of the pickup. They were flown to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
Storie was visiting the Outer Banks with his family.
An investigation determined that Rodriguez was traveling east on Colington Road and failed to stop for a flashing red light, police said. Rodriguez drove his Chevrolet Lumina into the intersection and was struck by the Chevrolet pickup, which was traveling south.
The traffic signal had malfunctioned about two hours before the crash. Traffic on U.S. 158 had a flashing yellow signal, giving vehicles the right of way, while traffic on Colington Road and Ocean Bay Boulevard had a flashing red light.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation was notified of the malfunctioning light but had not arrived to make repairs before the crash. Some questioned why police were not directing traffic.
The intersection was closed for three and a half hours until the scene was cleared.
As a result of the accident, speed limits were lowered on U.S. 158 from 50 to 45 mph from around the Wright Brothers National Memorial to Nags Head Elementary School. The limit was also lowered to 35 from 45 on Colington Road just west of U.S. 158.
Tips can be called in anonymously to Dare Community Crimeline at (252) 473-3111 or (800) 745-2746. If the information leads to the apprehension of Rodriguez there would be a cash reward.