Witnesses describe fiery scene to 911 operators in deadly I-85 crash

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) –  Witnesses who saw a fiery crash on Interstate 85 early Sunday morning, in which authorities say was caused by a UNC student, described a ball of fire that consumed the crash site.

The crash killed three people early Sunday morning near Hillsborough, including a 6-year-old girl.


“Oh my God, it’s on fire, it’s on fire! Oh my God, it’s on fire,” one caller described to an Orange County 911 operator.

Highway Patrol said the crash happened shortly after 3 a.m. on I-85 after the I-40 split. Witnesses told 911 operators the accident happened near Exit 163.

“There’s a big car accident with a car traveling on the other side of the road. They smashed into each other and it blew up the car,” another witness told 911.

Chandler Kania, 20, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is charged with causing the crash. Highway Patrol said Kania was driving his Jeep Wrangler northbound in the southbound lanes when he slammed into a Suzuki sedan driven by Felecia Harris, 49, of Charlotte. Harris was killed.

PREVIOUS STORY: 3 killed, 2 injured in wrong-way crash on I-85

Kania, who is from Asheboro, was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday but remains in the hospital.

“When they first hit, there was like a fire so, I don’t, I don’t know if it’s on fire or not. I can’t really see down there,” another witness told a 911 dispatcher.

Two of the three passengers in Harris’ car were killed, including 6-year-old Jahnice Beard of Brooklyn, New York, who was seated in the backseat. A woman in the front seat, Darlene McGee, 46, of Copper Creek Court, in Charlotte was identified Monday afternoon as the third person who died in the crash.

A second child, a 9-year-old girl, was injured and taken to UNC Hospitals. As of Tuesday, she was in good condition.

The family of Darlene McGee has set up a GoFundMe page.

Kania faces charges of driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, and possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a motor vehicle, N.C. Highway Patrol officials said Monday.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he believes Kania will be charged with several counts of second-degree murder, felony death by motor vehicle, and a felony assault for the victim who is still alive.

Officials now say that the state’s Alcohol Law Enforcement agency is looking into where Kania got his alcoholic beverage because he is under the legal drinking age.

PREVIOUS STORY: 3 killed, 2 injured in wrong-way crash on I-85

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