By Sherrie Norris
A two-week vacation for an Avery County family turned tragic just after midnight on Friday morning, August 23, when four members were involved in a collision in North Myrtle Beach that resulted in the death of another man.
Natalie Buchanan of Jonas Ridge, well-known residential manager of the Avery County Group Home in Newland, told us that she and her family — husband Rick, daughter Jessica and her fiancé, Dustin Eggers — were returning to their condo following a Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball game, when their vehicle was struck from behind by a pickup truck travelling at a high rate of speed, which seconds later, crashed, killing its driver and lone occupant.
According to WBTW News 13, 22-year-old Lavonte Stanley of Longs, SC, was pronounced dead on the scene. The crash happened on Friday morning on Robert Edge Parkway, the coroner’s office said.
North Myrtle Beach Fire Rescue crews responded to the crash around 12:30 a.m., a tweet from the department said. All westbound lanes of Robert Edge Parkway near Highway 17 were closed for several hours.
Buchanan shared that she, her husband, their daughter and fiancé had left the ballpark around 11 p.m. when they were preparing to stop at McDonalds for a late-night snack. After missing the entrance, she made a U-turn, and while she saw car lights “a long way off and knew I had plenty of time to turn,” she was already In the turning lane and had traveled just a few feet before she was hit from behind.
“The next thing I saw was a truck speeding around me — and no vehicle sitting behind me. My daughter’s fiancé jumped out and a police officer was in chase of the truck that had hit me and asked him which way he went. Dustin pointed down the road.”
Two second letter, Buchanan said, the truck ran into a concrete barrier.”
“I feel like maybe when he hit my car, which blew his tire out, is what may have caused him to wreck,” Buchanan said. “We were quickly out of our car, trying to stop traffic from going through all the debris on the road. My driver’s side was mashed all the way in to the gas tank; the back windshield was busted with glass all in my daughter’s groceries. The gas tank lid was knocked off completely. The back tire was off the rim. It was a mess. We eventually got the car cleaned out and a wrecker came and towed it to their shop.”
By the time Buchanan walked toward the other crash site, she said, the road was closed, her view blocked by emergency vehicles.
“As we waited to speak with an officer, a man came from the wreck and said there was a tarp draped over the scene; Dustin had heard a call for the coroner on the police radio.”
While understandably upset about her car, and thinking about the remaining week of vacation without transportation, Buchanan said, it was after “two nice ladies” took her and Dustin back to the condo to get his truck so he could help retrieve their belongings, that reality hit her.
“Around 1 a.m., I went into tell my mother-inn-law, who was very worried about us, what had happened. She began to cry, saying she was glad no one was hurt. Then it hit me that it was someone’s son in that accident, that a mother was going to get the worst news ever that night. I just broke down and cried for hours. I couldn’t sleep. “
During the night, Buchanan said, she was constantly looking at her phone for updates, concerned for the well-being of the driver
“I guess it was around 6 a.m. when I saw an article that he had been killed. I wanted to reach out to the family and let them know I didn’t hold a grudge for him hitting me — and that I was praying for them. A family friend had seen where I posted about the accident on Facebook and messaged me, wanting some information. I messaged this friend, a young lady who had been raised by this young man’s family. I wanted the family to know I was praying for them.”
Buchanan learned of speculations surrounding the events leading up to the chase and subsequent crash, saying she was sorry that he had apparently made the decision to drive after leaving a bar — and arguing with friends who tried to take his keys.
“People say he was the life of the town. Super popular and well liked,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said, too, that a GoFundMe page had been set up to help the family with funeral expenses, which by Monday morning, had reached $9333, already exceeding the $8,000 goal.
The garage where the Buchanan’s vehicle was stored had been closed over the weekend, and she had already begun the process of renting a car, talking with her insurance company and all the red-tape required following an accident — with another week of vacation remaining. But, the main thing, she said, was that the victim’s family knew that she harbored no anger toward the driver – and that she was asking that people pray for both families.
“As they were gathering all the big parts out of the road from my wreck, I looked up the road and saw a hat that must’ve belonged to the young man. It was sad to think that that was among the last memories anyone had of him. We were fortunate enough to give the hat to the police officer to return to the family. Seeing that hat totally broke my heart. Every time I look at this picture, it just brings tears to my eyes.”
Four years ago, the Buchanan family was involved in yet another accident in nearby Surfside Beach. But, as Buchanan said, the beach is still her favorite vacation spot.