ROLESVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – The man killed when his car sped off the road, jumped a ditch and slammed into a house in Rolesville Sunday morning was a national award winning college basketball player.
The driver killed in the crash has been identified by the North Carolina Highway Patrol as Delonte Jeffrey Fennell, 22, of Rolesville, who played two years at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.
The wreck was reported just before 5 a.m. at the intersection of Averette Road and Jones Dairy Road, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said.
According to authorities, Fennell was driving north on Averette Road between Jones Dairy Road and Chalk Road when he failed to stop at a stop sign. His car traveled through a field before hitting the home located at 524 Averette Road.
Delonte Fennell’s brother, Darius, spoke to WNCN’s Justin Quesinberry. According to Darius, Delonte was the middle child of three and worked as an assistant manager of a Dollar Tree store in Wake Forest.
“He was a good person, had his head on straight,” Darius Fennell said. “We’re still trying to figure out what happened.”
Darius said basketball was his brother’s passion. He played two years at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College which is located about 70 miles from Pittsburgh.
Delonte “lit up a room with his infectious smile!” said Sue Brugh, Athletic Director for Penn Highlands College, who also noted that Delonte was first athlete from Penn Highlands to have received a national award.
Delonte left the school in June and was planning on attending Elizabeth City State University in January.
“He was passionate about basketball and his family! ” Brugh said. “Up until the last days of his life, he always stayed in touch with his extended “Black Bear” family by texting, snap-chatting, or calling to say hello or to offer encouragement when needed. ”
Last January, he was named a NJCAA National Player of the Week between Jan. 5 – Jan. 11, 2015, Penn Highlands spokesman Sean McCool said.
According to Delonte’s basketball coach at the school, Landon Loya,
Delonte was one of the best to ever put on a Penn Highlands uniform. He was an extremely versatile player, as he was asked to play both inside and out. He liked to shoot threes, and when he get hot, there wasn’t anybody better. I’ll always remember that great smile he had, and how everybody on campus liked him. Delonte was a special young man, and I’m glad I got to coach him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
The owner of the home that Fennell crashed into, George Garcia, told WNCN’s Justin Quesinberry that he and his wife were sleeping in another part of the house when the wreck happened.
Garica said he didn’t even know anything was wrong until he went out to get the newspaper around 5 a.m. and saw a car and another object on the ground.
“There was a, looked like a blanket or something on the ground, and as I got closer, I realized it was a human being,” Garcia said.
Garcia said there have been four or five accidents in the last three years where cars went through the intersection and landed in his yard.
The house sits a couple of hundred feet from the intersection and a ditch separates the property and the road.
Shredded up lawn from the car’s tires could be seen outside the home. Following the tire marks, it appears the driver managed to drive between two Crepe Myrtle trees, onto the front lawn and then into the house. The homeowner said the car hit the house near their dining room.
Authorities said alcohol was not a factor in the crash and they are trying to determine if a medical condition prior to the crash resulted in the wreck or if Fennell died as a result of the collision.
Garcia said this wasn’t the first time a car has missed the stop sign and crashed in their yard and that he has contacted the NCDOT about the issue.
NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott told WNCN that their procedure for most fatal crashes involves examining the crash report provided by law enforcement and then having the department’s traffic safety team do their own investigation. The team “will look at the crash history, circumstances of this crash, previous traffic safety changes made there (if any), the current layout of the intersection… to see what might be possible to make it safer.”
Abbott said he had already requested a crash history for the past five years at the location of the wreck.