A Rockingham County man who had been reported missing died in a crash on Interstate 40 on Monday night, February 1.
According to the North Carolina Highway Patrol, 78-year-old Billy Ray Willard of Stoneville had dementia.
He was driving a 1988 Ford Bronco in the wrong direction on westbound I-40 when he collided head-on with a Mazda SUV driven by Randall Scott Pennington of Palm Beach, Florida. The accident occurred around 6:12 p.m. close to where McGregor Road crosses I-40.
Willard died on the spot.
Meanwhile, Pennington and his passenger sustained injuries that were not life-threatening and they were taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for treatment.
The crash on Interstate 40 caused an almost three-hour closure of the westbound lanes.
One of Willard’s relatives had reported him missing shortly before the accident occurred.
Lt. Kevin Suthard of the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office said deputies went to a house between Stoneville and Eden around 5:52 p.m. to talk to a family member.
Suthard said Willard was last seen at 9:30 a.m. and he was scheduled to go to the bank. His family got concerned when he didn’t come back home.
Law enforcement agencies were issued with a “be on the lookout” report.
According to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, the missing person’s report came out around 20 minutes after the first deputy had arrived at the scene of the crash.
Suthard said as soon as the missing person report went out, his office received word from Forsyth County that a vehicle matching the description of Willard’s Bronco had been involved in a fatal crash.
Witnesses said prior to the crash, Willard was driving slowly in an easterly direction in the fast lane of westbound I-40 with his headlights off.
If you suffered injuries in an accident caused by a reckless driver, a North Carolina car accident attorney may be able to help you.