Woman killed, 3 others injured after pickup truck rams into runners at Avery County race, troopers say
LINVILLE, North Carolina — A pickup truck slammed into a crowd of runners Thursday night at the start of The Bear race in Linville, Highway Patrol troopers said.
A runner, later identified as Julie Holderness, 72, of Winston-Salem, died, soldiers said. Three other runners were seriously injured. Their identities have not been disclosed.
The event for runners and joggers is part of the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Avery County.
It happened around 6:50 p.m. on NC Highway 105 (Linville Avenue) near Blowing Rock Highway. Linville Avenue was closed after the incident.
Soldiers told Channel 9 the following day that an elderly driver pressed the accelerator pedal instead of the brakes and drove into a crowd of racers. The driver was working on the run, ferrying people up and down the mountainside.
“About 10 minutes before the race started, I was crossing the street getting ready to leave and a vehicle started moving through the crowd,” runner Cory Wilkinson said Thursday night. “I heard screams and unfortunately this vehicle hit several people.”
Troopers said they don’t know why the pickup truck suddenly accelerated and slammed into the riders before hitting a Gator 4×4 vehicle during the event.
“(The driver) wasn’t trying to hurt anyone,” he said. “Something went wrong. No one really knows what happened at that time.
The 5-mile race that stretches from downtown Linville to the Mile High Swing Bridge at the top of Grandfather Mountain has been cancelled.
About 900 people registered for the race.
Runner Carolyn Brice flew in from Wilmington to participate.
“I was crossing to get to the start line when it happened. I just heard a bunch of screaming and I saw people running and I saw the van go through people and s ‘stop,” Brice said after leaving the event. “It’s an event you want to do and have fun. You don’t want anyone to get hurt, injured or killed. So my thoughts and prayers go out to those families.
The organizers sent a statement to Channel 9 on Thursday evening.
“On my behalf and on behalf of the entire Grandfather Mountain Highland Games organization and family, we are deeply saddened by tonight’s devastating event and extend our condolences to those affected,” said Steve Quillin, President of Grandfather Mountain Highland Games.
Grandfather Mountain Highland Games activities scheduled for Friday to Sunday will continue as planned.
No other information has been released as part of the ongoing investigation.
Check back to this story for updates.
(Watch below: Highland Games kicks off at Grandfather Mountain this weekend)
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