CROATAN NATIONAL FOREST, N.C. — Five people, including two infants and another child, were killed Sunday when a sport utility vehicle overturned on a national forest road near coastal North Carolina and sank in a canal, officials said.
The crash happened between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. in the Croatan National Forest north of Camp Lejeune. Tire marks on the gravel road indicate that speed was likely a factor and that the fatal storms that killed at least 21 in the state did not appear to play a role, said Highway Patrol Trooper R.A. Woods.
Officials hadn't identified the victims and Woods did not immediately know if all were related. He said the infants — a boy and a girl — were found still strapped in their child seats when the SUV was pulled from the water. It had been upside down, almost completely submerged and drowning appeared to be the cause of death, he said.
Besides the infants, an adolescent boy and a man and a woman were found in the SUV, Woods said. The woman, who was in the driver's seat, was still wearing a seat belt; the man was not.
Woods said it was possible the man died trying to get the woman and children out of the SUV after the crash.
Craven County officials had been in the area earlier in the day, hours before the wreck, assessing damage from the raging storms that whipped across North Carolina Saturday, said Stanley Kite, the county's emergency management chief.
"It is awful," Kite said.
Croatan National Forest consists of roughly 160,000 acres of bogs, salt water estuaries and pine forests and is located approximately in the middle of North Carolina's Atlantic coastline. A call late Sunday to the forest's ranger station was not immediately returned.
"That's a very isolated road," Kite said. "There've been several deaths as a result of people running off it."
News of the crash was particularly devastating because Craven County had escaped the weekend's rampaging storms with no deaths and only a handful of relatively minor injuries. Several dozen homes were damaged, including a number in a subdivision that were destroyed, Kite said.
"As far as I'm concerned, we got very lucky there weren't any deaths, considering the way some of those homes looked," he said.