Two charged in wreck that killed pregnant woman

Lenoir woman swerved to avoid hitting trailer
Sep. 07, 2013 @ 08:15 AM

Two brothers from Maiden have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in a July 18 wreck on U.S. 321in Gastonia that killed 27-year-old Ashley Daniele Watson of Old North Road in Lenoir, who was nine weeks pregnant at the time.

Watson was driving a pickup truck north on the highway shortly before 10 p.m. with her 6-year-old daughter, Alexis, and her 11-year-old niece, Makinzey Cox.

Ahead of her were Tyler Lloyd Whitener Jr., 22, and Michael Todd Whitener, 26, each driving a vehicle hauling a trailer carrying equipment for their tree-cutting business.

The lights on Tyler Whitener's trailer were not lit, however, and its load also was overweight, so he was driving considerably slower than the posted speed limit, the N.C. Highway Patrol said. Watson was quickly gaining on him, but because his trailer's lights were out she apparently didn't see him.

Michael Whitener, driving a Chevrolet Suburban, was starting to pass his brother's truck when Watson suddenly realized she was about to run into the back of Tyler Whitener's trailer. She swerved to avoid hitting it and ran the driver's side of her pickup into Michael Whitener's trailer, the Highway Patrol said.

Watson suffered severe head trauma and died later at a hospital. Her passengers, Alexis and Makinzey, were not hurt.

Tyler Whitener did not stop, but a witness wrote down his tag number.

Watson graduated in 2003 from West Caldwell High School and was employed at Lenoir Health Care as a CNA.