RURAL HALL, N.C. — Justin Cardwell’s co-workers remembered him Thursday as a laid-back person who kept to himself and helped his colleagues.
Cardwell died Wednesday when strong winds toppled a tree onto his car as he was driving along Reynolda Road.
“He was a sweet person,” said Laneka Duncan, who worked with Cardwell at the Food Lion off N.C. 65 in Rural Hall. “He helped everyone, and he was good at his job.”
Cardwell, 25, of Woods Road was driving his car in the 2000 block of Reynolda Road when a large pine tree fell on his vehicle, Winston-Salem police said.
Cardwell suffered serious injuries and died at the scene.
His girlfriend, Rebecca Dobbins, was a passenger in the car. She suffered serious injuries and was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, police said.
Dobbins, 26, was in good condition Thursday at Wake Forest Baptist.
A graduate of North Forsyth High School, Cardwell had worked at the Food Lion store at least five years, said Shane Johan, who also works at the grocery. Cardwell, who worked in the store’s meat department, was a student at Forsyth Technical Community College.
“I saw him (Wednesday) working at the store,” Johan said. “He was a good man, and he did his job and went home.”
Rick Gentry, another Food Lion employee, said that Cardwell and Dobbins had dated for a long time.
“He didn’t talk about stuff outside of work,” Duncan said of Cardwell.
The pine tree that hit Cardwell’s car stood in the city’s right-of-way, said Ed McNeal, the city’s spokesman. The city’s urban forester and other city employees routinely check the trees along the road to see if the trees have a disease or are decaying.
City employees last inspected the area where the tree that struck Cardwell’s car in December, McNeal said.
That tree didn’t show any signs of disease or decay, he said.
White pines have a shallow root system, and strong winds can catch their needles, which act like a sail and bring the trees down, McNeal said.
Another factor was that the ground was wet along Reynolda Road from recent winter storms, he said.
The site of the fallen tree is near the Summit School.
“It a horrific tragedy,” said Michael Ebeling, head of Summit School. “We have nothing but compassion for (Cardwell’s) family.”
Duncan said she is still trying to come to terms with Cardwell’s death.
“I cried a little bit,” she said. “He will be truly missed.”