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Man Charged with Two Offenses in Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Accident That Claimed One Life and Injured Four Other Persons

By Tim Gardner

The driver of a van that hit five persons, resulting in one death on July 7 during the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville has been charged, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Investigators believe the death was accidental, but the man driving the van still has been charged, according to a North Carolina Highway Patrol news release. The incident happened during The Bear race, which is part of the Highland Games. The name of the deceased person and the van’s driver also have been released by the State Highway Patrol.

A 72-year-old woman-Julie Holderness of Greensboro, NC–perished from injuries she sustained in the accident.

Three men, aged 43, 45 and 61 were injured, along with an unknown victim.

James Russell Deni, age 80, of Boone, has been charged with unsafe movement and misdemeanor death by vehicle. 

An investigation is ongoing. 

“The collision occurred when a Ford Econoline van driven by (Deni) attempted to leave a parked position and accelerated into a group of pedestrians,” the release says. “After impact with the pedestrians, the van struck a John Deere Gator utility vehicle and came to a final rest.”

According to the Highway Patrol, numerous pedestrians and participants were at the Chestnut Construction Company parking lot in Linville, adjacent to U.S. Highway 221, for The Bear, a 5-mile footrace that was part of the Highland Games. The race starts at the intersection in Linville and ends on top of Grandfather Mountain.

The State Highway Patrol release added: “After preliminary investigation, SHP investigators do not believe the act to have been intentional. The entirety of the incident occurred in the aforementioned parking lot and was not precipitated by any traffic direction, road closures, detours, etc. on the main highway for the purposes of the organized event.”

Early reports indicated there were four persons involved in the accident, although it was later reported that there were actually five involved. 

Immediately following the accident, the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games canceled The Bear race. The remainder of the Highland Games went on as scheduled on July 8, 9 and 10.