ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. – A Rockingham County High School student died after crashing into a tree early Sunday morning, according to authorities. It happened a little after 3 a.m. Sunday morning on Iron Works Road near Anderson Trail.
Highway Patrol troopers say the driver was 17-year-old Joseph Hedgecock, a high school senior and part of the fire academy at the school.
Troopers say a high rate of speed was a contributing factor in the crash, and the teenager was not wearing a seat belt.
Officials said Hedgecock was driving fast and his vehicle crossed the center line, went off the road and hit a tree.
There’s going to be a moment of silence at Rockingham County High School Monday morning for Hedgecock.
Orange paint and tire marks line Joshua Branch’s front yard. They mark the path where troopers said Hedgecock drove off Iron Works Road.
“I was just lying in bed, and it was probably 3, 3:30, or 4, and I just heard a loud bang. I wasn’t sure what it was,” Branch said.
Branch got out of bed to see what happened and saw first responders covering his next-door neighbor’s lawn.
“Then I saw the ambulance lights and heard the sirens. That’s when I saw the truck wrapped around the tree,” he said.
Noah Ellis drove by Sunday afternoon to see the crash site.
Ellis said he was with Hedgecock on Saturday night. They were with a group of friends when Hedgecock left, and they could not get a hold of him.
“I tried to call him personally and he didn’t answer. Multiple people tried to call him,” Ellis said.
The friends got another call instead, from a firefighter who they later learned responded to the crash. That firefighter knew Hedgecock because of the student's involvement in the Rockingham County High School Fire Academy.
Now his friends are trying to find a way to cope.
“It’s hard, just losing anybody like that so young, it’s just, it’s rough on everyone. I’m praying for everyone,” Ellis said.