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Wrong-way I-40 driver reported missing by husband before deadly crash

Drivers watched in shock as a woman drove the wrong way on I-40 west in Guilford County near NC-61 and didn't stop.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Editor’s note: This story contains graphic video and may not be suitable for all viewers. Discretion is advised.

A woman is dead after she drove the wrong way on I-40 in Guilford County. 

North Carolina Highway Patrol said 69-year-old Pearlie Mae Williams, of McLeansville, crashed head-on with another vehicle near mile marker 138. The three people in the other car were taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Troopers said a total of seven cars were involved. 

RELATED: 6-year-old boy injured in wrong-way I-40 crash home from hospital

Troopers still don't know why Williams ended up going the wrong way on the highway. They said her husband reported her missing just 20 minutes before the crash. 

The wreck happened just after 5 p.m. Troopers said Williams was in the westbound lanes of I-40W/I-85S before she crashed. The road was closed for hours near exit 138, which is NC-61.

A passenger in a car in the eastbound lane, Diego Fernandez, recorded video of the crash before stopping to help victims.

He said he was headed back to Garner after working in Salisbury when he and a co-worker saw the car going the wrong way on the other side of the road.

“Being there in that situation, I was shocked. To this point I’m still shocked,” Fernandez said. “It looked really bad, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if people are alive, but we’ve got to go see what we can do.’”

Fernandez said he jumped over the concrete wall to help the victims.

“They were screaming and yelling. One of the ladies was praying for help,” he said. "There were other people helping too," he said. 

Fernandez had his work gloves, so he gave them to someone who broke a windshield to rescue a victim. He also gave someone a pocketknife that was used to cut a woman’s seatbelt off.

“Everywhere you look, you’d see people who were helping other vehicles that were impacted. It was really scary,” he said. “I was going back home, and I was like, ‘dang, what was going through my mind, is that this could’ve happened to me at any given second.’”

Investigators are awaiting a toxicology report from Williams' autopsy. 


Credit: WFMY News 2


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