ST. PAULS — St. Pauls Police Chief Tommy Hagens says the driver of 2012 Dodge Charger that knocked down two electric poles on West Broad Street — and sent part of the town into hours of darkness on the coldest night of the year — was drunk and driving with an open container of alcohol.
Darrick Wayne Davis, 34, of 2231 N.C. 20 East, was traveling at a high rate of speed in the vehicle, which was registered to Tiffany Lynn Pate, of the same address, when the wreck occurred just before midnight on Thursday, Hagens said. According to Hagens, the Dodge hit a curb, glanced off of a tree and “became airborne” twice before striking a mailbox, a Century Link control box, and then the two poles, on the corner of West Broad Street and South Odum Road.
Davis had to be cut from the destroyed car and removed through the backseat, according to Evans Jackson, chief of the St. Pauls Fire Department. Davis was then taken by Southeastern Regional Medical Center by ambulance, but was released on Friday. Hagens said he plans to charge him with driving while impaired, driving with an open container and careless and reckless driving.
Chris Jackson, captain of the St. Pauls Fire Department, said it took “a few hours” to remove the car because it was wedged between the poles that were “suspended by power lines.” Pike Electric, of Maxton, cut power at about 5 a.m. Friday to begin installing new electric poles. Through traffic from the intersection of Fifth Street to the Interstate 95 overpass was blocked by St. Pauls police officers and Public Works officials, and the town’s firefighters kept watch over the project.
Heat, lights and hot water were restored to about half of the 1,200 Progress Energy customers who lost electricity by 10 a.m. Friday, according to Paige Layne, spokesperson for the power company. The rest of the lights came back on at 11:49, she said.
Twenty guests at Days Inn were left without a way to take a hot shower or enjoy a cup of coffee, and people in area homes struggled to find ways to keep warm as temperatures stayed below the freezing point. A thermostat in the home of Eric Allen, who lives one house down from the accident, read 60 degrees at 9:15 a.m. Friday. By 10:30 a.m., freezing rain had begun to fall as a winter storm moved into the county.
Businesses along West Broad Street near the I-95 access ramps were closed until the power came back on.
Jackie Raby, manager of McDonalds, said the restaurant didn’t open until after noon, because it takes 30 minutes for the business to get “up and running.” She said her cash drawer missed the regular rush that kicks off the weekend.
“We lost a lot,” she said. “Friday and Saturdays are our busiest mornings.”
Hagens said costs for the wreck have added up — the new light poles came in at $5,000, damage to the yard where the poles were located was estimated at $1,000, and the Dodge had cost Pate $30,000. But, he said, the expense is greater when the cost to the town is considered — the Police Department was tied up for 12 hours, and 15 firefighters, for nine.
“If you figure it all up, it’d be $150,000 that we lost,” he said.