LUMBERTON — Family members believe a medical event caused the accident that killed Patrick Pait, the county attorney, and another man in a head-on collision on Sunday in Fayetteville.
Initially it was reported that the vehicle being driven by Donald Rightnour crossed two lanes and struck Pait’s vehicle, but Highway Patrol said that was a result of eyewitnesses confused because the men were driving similar vehicles. The patrol said videotapes of the accident showed it was Pait’s car that crossed two lanes and hit Rightnour’s at a high rate of speed.
The Pait family issued the following statement: “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies and prayers for the family and friends of Mr. Donald Allen Rightnour. Our family shares in the grief of the unexpected and tragic loss of a loved one. We deeply appreciate the efforts of law enforcement, witnesses, and all others who assisted in and are continuing to perform a thorough investigation so that everyone can understand the facts of what occurred. Based upon the information provided to us regarding the accident, it appears that Patrick suffered from a medical emergency which caused this tragedy. Our hearts grieve for all of those affected by this horrible accident, and we ask for prayers for the family and friends of Mr. Rightnour.”
Pait was driving south on Cumberland Road near Fayetteville at about 3:37 p.m. when his vehicle, a Chevrolet pickup truck traveling at a high rate of speed, left the southbound lane, crossed the center-turn lane, entered the far right northbound lane and struck Donald Rightnour’s Dodge truck head-on, said Sgt. Jake Katzenberger, of the Highway Patrol.
The Highway Patrol reviewed videotapes obtained from several homes and a business during the investigation.
“They (investigators) did their due diligence,” Katzenberger said. “Based on continuing investigation, we now know how it happened, but we don’t know why it happened.
“We were able to locate three videos. Two videos we were able to determine the direction Mr. Pait and Mr. Rightnour were traveling. The third video you can see the actual accident itself, the point of impact, which indicated Mr. Rightnour was in his correct lane of travel.”
The accident scene was in such disarray it was difficult to determine the facts, he said.
“On the day of the initial investigation we spoke to at least four independent witnesses,” Katzenberger said. “At the time that is what we could go on. Both men died at the scene.”
The agency is waiting on toxicology and autopsy reports.
“People tend to jump to conclusions. Anything is possible until we rule out factors, including a medical condition,” Katzenberger said. “These results normally take several months.”
Chief District Court Judge J. Stanley Carmical issued an administrative order to allow all sessions to recess at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday so court personnel can attend the funeral service for Pait, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Lumberton. All court sessions shall resume no later than 2 p.m. or as soon thereafter as practical.
Pait, who was 34 years old, had been the county attorney since June 2014. The county canceled the meeting of the Board of Commissioners on Monday and will hold it this coming Monday.
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.