Car crash 'was like a jet coming at us'

Jul. 22, 2014 @ 08:28 AM

Geralene Patterson cannot wipe the horrible, deafening screech of crunching metal from her mind, nor the moments after she learned that she and her friend Adrienne Campbell were the only survivors of the crash last Wednesday evening in Gamewell.

"I remember Adrienne saying, 'That car looks like it's going 95 or 100 mph,'" Patterson, 66, said Monday at her Virginia Street home. "It was directly in front of us. It was like a jet coming at us."

With just seconds to react as a Kia Spectra barreled down on her Lexus, Patterson tried to swerve out of the way. But the Kia's driver, apparently also trying to avoid a collision, swerved the same way.

Patterson was knocked unconscious.

"Adrienne kept shaking me, saying, 'Wake up, wake up, don't leave us,'" Patterson said.

Investigators say the driver of the Kia, Sabrina Handy, 29, of Lenoir, may have been trying to rush her grandmother, Carolyn Handy, 75, to Caldwell Memorial Hospital. Shortly before the wreck, their car was heading west toward Morganton, then Sabrina Handy turned around and started speeding back toward Lenoir. Carolyn Handy, Sabrina Handy and Sabrina Handy's 4-year-old son, Carson, all died in the crash.

Campbell, 57, a former New Yorker now living in Lenoir, was flown to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where she is recovering from two broken legs, a broken arm and a broken hand. She had nine hours of surgery and will need three months of physical therapy, Patterson said.

Patterson was taken to Caldwell Memorial Hospital with cuts and bruises, and she was released Saturday afternoon. She was still in the emergency room when a Highway Patrol trooper told her the Handys were killed.

"I lost it. I began to cry," she said.

Patterson, a pastor at Christ Church of Lenoir, where she and Campbell were headed before the crash, said she intended to try to reach out to any relatives of the Handys she could find. Instead, Rhonda Handy Mitchell -- the daughter of Carolyn Handy and mother of Sabrina Handy -- reached out to her.

"I wanted to give the family time to grieve, so I didn't come out and say anything," Patterson said. "But on Saturday I got a Facebook message from Rhonda."

The message read in part: "It was my daughter driving the car that hit you and your passenger. I am so sorry but at the same time I am so happy you two survived the accident. Know that my prayers are with you both as well. ... I wanted to reach out. I don't know what happened leading up to this -- it may always be a mystery. ... Please know I am truly sorry."

"I texted her back and then gave her a call," Patterson said. "I want to sit down with her and talk."

Patterson said she would share her own knowledge of close loss -- of losing her husband, Aaron L. Patterson, to cancer in October 2006, and losing her mother, Macordia Thorne, her brother David Thorne, and her pastor, Bishop Otis Lockett, within a two-week period in 2012.

"I'm used to grief," Patterson said. "I know there's nothing else I could have done (to prevent the accident). I'm human. I have six grandkids, and a beautiful daughter and son. I can't imagine what she's going through."

Patterson, still extremely sore, attended her church on Sunday. She wanted her congregation to know she was doing fine, that it is the other family who needs their prayers.