Fatal wreck hits St. Pauls community

Scott Witten switten@civitasmedia

January 23, 2014

ST. PAULS — An accident that killed a St. Pauls High student and seriously injured another has left people in this small community shocked and saddened. Speed may have been a factor, according to the state Highway Patrol.

The single-vehicle accident occurred Wednesday afternoon, two miles north of St. Pauls on East McRainey Road near Oakland Road, according to a report filed by Trooper J.M. Bullard.

Bobby Willis, 16, of 2745 Shaw Mill Road, was killed in the accident.

Willis, who was pronounced dead at the scene, had to be cut out of the 2011 Kia SUV, the state Highway Patrol said.

Emily Louise Hagens, the 16-year-old driver and the granddaughter of St. Pauls Police Chief R. Thomas Hagens, also had to be freed from the vehicle. She lives on Oakland Road.

Both students were juniors at St. Pauls High School.

“The St. Pauls High School family has been greatly affected by this tragedy,” St. Pauls High School Principal Hoyt A. McCormick said in a statement Thursday.

McCormick described Willis as honor student who worked “hard to perform in the classroom.”

“He came to school every day and was very conscious of his academics,” McCormick said. “All the teachers liked him and he had a lot of friends here at the school.”

The school had grief counselors available on Thursday for students who needed help coping with the news.

According to the report, Hagens was driving north on East McRainey Road when the vehicle ran off the road, hit a thick guide-wire supporting a utility pole and crashed into the tree. Both teenagers were wearing seat belts, the report said.

A sign posted on East McRainey Road warns drivers of the sharp curve and a recommended speed of 30 mph. Hagens was estimated to be traveling 55 mph when she approached the curve, the patrol said.

Hagens, who was airlifted to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, was in serious condition when rescue personnel arrived, according to the patrol. A UNC Health Care spokesman said Thursday that there was no information on any patient with Hagens’ name.

Willis and Hagens were not in school because Wednesday was a teacher workday in Robeson County. The accident occurred at 1:54 p.m.