By Debbie Hall
A North Carolina woman was is facing a litany of charges, including vehicular homicide, in connection with an alleged pursuit that began in Halifax County and tragically ended Friday in Stuart.
In a release, the Virginia State Police said park rangers located a woman inside an unoccupied, unrented cabin at Staunton River State Park. The woman allegedly fled the cabin, got into a white 2010 Toyota Corolla, and allegedly “sped from the scene,” pursued by the park rangers.
The Halifax County Sheriff’s Office pursued the vehicle and tried a vehicle containment, but the driver allegedly “forcefully exited the vehicle containment, striking a deputy’s vehicle,” the release stated.
Multiple law enforcement agencies were notified of the pursuit, and the Toyota was located at 12:52 p.m. in the City of Martinsville. The Martinsville Police Department unsuccessfully tried to stop the vehicle, and the pursuit continued through Henry County, the release stated.
Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith said the local 911 Center received a call that Martinsville and state authorities were pursuing a white Toyota Corolla, which was “driving recklessly at high speeds on U.S. 58, coming in to Patrick County from Henry County.”
Patrick County sheriff’s deputies and troopers tried to disable the vehicle on multiple occasions with spike strips, but Smith said the vehicle avoided each attempt. He added the vehicle’s speeds were too high to employ a PIT (Pursuit Intervention Technique) maneuver.
“It was blatantly obvious that she was not going to stop her erratic and reckless behavior,” he said, and added that to try and prevent a crash, “the sheriff’s office shut down the intersection at Walmart.”
At 1:18 p.m., the 2010 Corolla crossed the median into eastbound lanes of travel and struck a 2005 Toyota Corolla head-on, according to the state police.
“After the suspect vehicle came through the intersection at Walmart, it veered into the oncoming, eastbound lane near Patrick County Family Practice and collided with another vehicle. The driver of that vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene,” Smith said.
The driver of the 2005 Toyota was identified as Bobby Wayne Gammons, 81, of Mount Airy, N.C. Gammons was wearing his seatbelt and died at the scene, according to the state police.
Christine S. Barnette, 41, of Cary, N.C., was injured and flown to Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
Barnette also was charged with breaking and entering, reckless driving, defrauding an inn keeper, felony eluding police and trespassing in connection with the incident.
“The reckless, careless and selfish actions of one person took the life of a totally innocent person, and that is sickening,” Smith wrote in a release. “The law enforcement officers from the three agencies involved did everything possible to try and prevent the tragedy. Our hearts are broken for the innocent life that was lost.”
The Virginia State Police Crash Reconstruction Team and the Virginia State Police, Bureau of Criminal Investigation assisted with the crash that remains under investigation.