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Thursday, March 16, 2017

No. 139 "Dead Man's Curve"

"Won't come back from Dead Man's Curve" from “Dead Man’s Curve” by Jan Berry & Carl Dean (Jan & Dean)

At the southwest corner of the Island, and at the very top of Red Hill, the road curves sharply – almost at 90°. Coming onto the Island for the first time or for any driver unfamiliar with the lay of the land, it can be a little difficult to manage the turn, especially after the sun has set for the evening.

There were so many accidents there, at least a couple of them fatal, that the spot eventually became known as “Dead Man’s Curve.” The narrow black-top road is bordered on both sides by the largest oaks found anywhere on the Island, and the yaupon bushes that sat underneath them were very little cushion for cars that failed to make the turn. The oak trees themselves remained firm and whatever hit them, man or machine, stopped immediately on impact.

Aerial view of the turn at Red Hill (Dead Man's Curve)
Weekend nights, when servicemen stationed on the mainland would frequent the Island’s movie theater and stores, was when most of the accidents occurred. It was well after midnight one summer Saturday that one of those happened. What ensued in the aftermath was told to me by a good friend who lived close enough by that he heard both the screeching of tires and the impact that followed.  He, along with his father were there even before a lone NC Highway patrolman arrived to investigate and make his report. He later told to others what he had observed.

After an ambulance had removed the badly injured driver from the wreck and carried him away towards the closest hospital in Morehead City, the trooper retired to his squad car to prepare his preliminary report. In the warm summer air, he was quietly discussing with some of the witnesses what they first had heard and later noticed as they arrived on the scene. It was while engaged in that conversation that onlookers noticed that asleep in the back seat of the officer’s car was someone wearing handcuffs, and apparently inebriated, who had been arrested by the patrolmen just before he had been called to respond to the accident at Red Hill.

As the back-seat passenger began to awake, he grew increasingly restless and uncomfortable, not fully aware of where he was or why he was locked up in the back of a patrol car.

“What is it, where am I, what’s going on?” was all he could say as he looked toward the officer and saw the flashing lights from atop the car reflecting off the surroundings.

Still focused on the incident at hand, the officer paid him scant attention, but eventually did turn in his direction to say simply, “It was a really bad accident.”

Even more confused and curious, the detainee immediately followed up by asking, “Who was it?”
The officer paid even less attention than before and responded simply, “It was some drunk.”

Now, totally alarmed and extremely agitated, the prisoner shouted out, “Oh me! Was I hurt?”