Dad injured in fatal Zebulon crash released from hospital, teen daughter improving

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The man injured in a two-vehicle crash that killed his wife and left his 16-year-old daughter in critical condition has been released from the hospital, family members told CBS North Carolina Tuesday morning.

RELATED: Mom killed, dad and teen daughter hurt in Zebulon crash; 1 man charged


Darryl Claybourne is the husband of 53-year-old Judy Marie Claybourne, who was killed in the wreck on U.S. Route 64 westbound in Zebulon Monday morning, and the father of Ameerah Claybourne, 16, who was critically injured. Ameerah was in fair condition Tuesday afternoon.

There will be a candlelight vigil held on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Living the Life of Faith Church. They will be honoring Judy Claybourne’s life and praying for a full recovery for the husband and daughter.

“It’s hurts bad, but hopefully it will get better after a while,” said neighbor Atalyah Wiggins. “It’s just sad.”

The crash happened around 6 a.m. on U.S. 64 near the 64/U.S. Route 264 merge near Debnam Road, officials said.

The family was returning from a holiday visit to relatives in Philadelphia and were only a few miles from home when they were hit by Erik Christian Hicks, 42, of Knightdale. Hicks was driving a 2002 GMC Envoy when failed to reduce speed and struck the 2008 Pontiac Torrent in the rear, officials said.

Before to the collision, the Pontiac van with the Claybourne family inside pulled onto the right shoulder where the driver (husband) and front seat passenger (wife) switched positions, officials said.

Investigators have determined that Hicks was texting at the time of the collision and did not realize the van had pulled onto the roadway thus colliding into the Claybourne’s vehicle, the N.C. Highway Patrol said.

Darryl Claybourne has been released from the hospital. His wife, Judy Claybourne, 53, was killed (Source: Family photo)
Darryl Claybourne has been released from the hospital. His wife, Judy Claybourne, 53, was killed (Source: Family photo)

The collision sent the Pontiac careening off the right side of the road and into the woods where it flipped over and came to a rest in the woodline. The Claybournes were not far from their home.

“They were almost home,” Wiggins said. “Not even five minutes from home, and yet because someone wanted to text and drive, now her life is gone. She’s not here any more.”

Darryl and Ameerah Claybourne were transported to WakeMed. Judy Claybourne died at the scene.

“She will be missed,” said a friend, Brenda Sutton. “I saw her with that Jeep every day. She goes somewhere and she’s always helping others – always.”

Hicks was transported to WakeMed with non-life threatening injuries.

Hicks was charged with texting while driving and failure to wear a seat belt.

Authorities had originally said that Hicks would be charged with misdemeanor death by a motor vehicle, but he’s no longer facing that charge, at least for now.

Troopers will be conferring with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office in the coming days to determine if additional charges are warranted in this case, North Carolina State Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Gordon said.

Darryl Claybourne and Ameerah Claybourne (Courtesy: Family photo)
Darryl Claybourne and Ameerah Claybourne (Courtesy: Family photo)

Meanwhile, the community is shocked by the turn of events and said the Claybourne family is well-respected and active in a local church.

“[Judy] was like the community mom,” said Clinton Todd, a cousin.

“It just breaks my heart,” said Faye Burgess, a neighbor. “Everybody loves Miss Judy.”

“She helped everyone that was needed help,” said cousin Kee Jones.

Darryl Claybourne sings in the church choir and works at a restaurant not far from the family home.

“He’s a real funny cat,” Todd said of him. “He loves to have fun.”

Ameerah plays basketball for the East Wake Warriors.

The wreck is currently under investigation.

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