GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Four 16-year-olds were killed in a crash on Interstate 40/85 in Guilford County after a day spent with friends.
Only one teen survived.
“We were at the pool hanging out, and we were all having a good time,” explained Zephaniah Cole, a senior at Eastern Guilford High School.
It was a hot summer Monday spent with friends, and then the group broke up to head their separate ways.
“We saw like cars lined up on the interstate,” Cole said. “We thought it was a bad wreck because we saw like five cars.”
He soon found out five of his friends were in one of those cars.
Investigators say 16-year-old Maurice Williams was speeding on I-40/I-85 when he lost control of the car and hit a tree.
Williams and three of his passengers died immediately.
16-year-old Justin Porter and 16-year-old Javon Johnson-Rumley were classmates of Williams at Eastern Guilford. The other passenger was 16-year-old Sequoyah Delaney, a friend of theirs from Ragsdale High School.
Troopers say none of them were wearing seat belts.
“I was just shocked. Just shocked. It was just unbelievable,” Cole said. “Just being there with them in the moment and then hearing they passed away. It was all so sudden. It was very sad.”
The sole survivor of the crash is 15-year-old Azaiah Howard, a sophomore at Eastern Guilford.
“My heart just dropped,” recalled his mom, Catina Cowan.
FOX8 spoke with Cowan on the phone as she sat at his bedside at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, reliving an experience she said she would never wish on any other parent.
“All I could do is just panic. I didn’t know which way to turn,” Cowan said. “I was just asking questions…how was he? How was the people with him?
Cowan told FOX8 that Howard has a broken thigh bone and some other injuries.
“I wish I could take all of his pain away,” she said. “All I can do is just sit here and think about all his friends in the car with him. My heart goes out to all his friends’ family.”
Cole told FOX8 this tragedy has made him more cautious, and that he will be extra cognizant of wearing seat belts.
“You just never know when a split moment like that is going to happen,” he said. “You just never know when it’s your time.”
On Tuesday evening, a memorial was set up just off the highway for the four teens killed.
The memorial includes balloons, candles and a basketball.
A balloon release is scheduled for Saturday night at Eastern Guilford High School and a memorial will be held on Sunday afternoon at Spring Wood Park.