Morganton, NC Two Car Collision Kills Ten, Dec 1944




The 10th victim died Sunday in Morganton from the worst two-car collision in the State's history just before a Burke County coroner's jury blamed Saturday's accident on the careless and reckless driving of both operators, but postponed its hearing until the identity of the drivers can be established.
No time was set for resuming the inquest.
CLAYTON SHOOK, 30, Glen Alpine café worker and father of five children, died at Grace Hospital in Morganton at 8:45 o'clock Sunday morning, over 24 hours after the ninth death resulting from a head-on collision involving 14 passengers with an average age of 21, who were going from one night spot to another in the western part of Burke County.
The niece, DORIS JEAN SHOOK, 16, was one of six persons killed instantly when the two automobiles, traveling at a high rate of speed, swept down opposite hills on Highway No. 70, between Morganton and Marion to meet in a devastating smashup at the foot at what is known as Bottom Drop. Three others died within a few hours after the collision occurred at 2 a.m.
The remaining four passengers are in hospitals in Morganton and Marion and are reported in a satisfactory condition. Still in a serious condition with favorable chances for recovery in Marion General Hospital are PAULINE HOYLE, 16, who has fractures of both legs and whose sister, LUCILLE, was killed; and CARL L. WILSON, discharged war veteran of Morganton who received a skull fracture exactly one year after he was seriously wounded in action in Italy. He was wounded in combat December 2, 1943, and returned home recently with a physical discharge. The girl was described as still in a state of shock, and WILSON has not fully regained consciousness.
Less seriously injured are two youths in the local hospital, JAMES POWELL, 18, of Morganton, who has a fractured leg and lost six teeth, and RAY ABERNATHY,
17, of Route 4, Morganton.
Witnesses at the inquest, conducted by Coroner Ted Shirley, said the paths of the two separate groups had crossed earlier in the evening, some occupants of both cars having been seen at the same time at midnight or later at Oak Park service station, a roadside eatery and dance hall, a mile west of the scene, where dancing was in progress. Six men who occupied the blue Ford at the time of the crash, had come to a night spot near Lake James, leaving the other crowd at Oak Park, but when they returned the passengers in the Chevrolet, five men and three girls, had gone. The two groups were not together, witnesses said.
Lee Ramsey, young Morganton man, who said he and Jack Pritchard left the six occupants of the Ford a few minutes before the crash, testified that PVT. RAYMOND A. SHOUPPE had been driving prior to that time, but he didn't see who was at the wheel when the car drove away. Ramsey said he got out to get his car but admitted that "I didn't like to ride with them much. There was not any brakes on it." Pritchard was not at the inquest but officers testified that he told them he left the six other men because of the manner in which the car was being driven.
Even greater doubt cloaks the identity of the driver of the other car. One person who helped remove the dead named on man who seemed to be under the wheel. Officers had thought another man was driving, while the family of a third had believed that he was operating the car.

The Monroe Enquirer North Carolina 1944-12-04