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Collision claims area teen;
Clayton resident faces felony charge

Shannon Nicole Adkins
Shannon Nicole Adkins

For her senior project prior to graduating this past May from Clayton High School, Shannon Nicole Adkins chose to research Johnston County’s grim reputation as the county with the highest incidence of teenage traffic fatalities in North Carolina.

“She was so excited about the things she learned,” her mother, Ernestine “Ernie” Adkins, said Monday. “She talked about what the police thought were causing a lot of the accidents, things like talking on cell phones and messing with the radio. And she’d ridden with the country sheriff’s department and visited the probation office in Clayton. She was in the process of completing a background check to volunteer for 10 hours a week there.”

Adkins had even decided to change her major at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro, where she commuted from home, from dental hygiene to criminal justice as a result of her research and experience with the county law agencies, her mother said.

Yesterday afternoon, Doug and Ernie Adkins, and the rest of Shannon Adkins’ relatives and friends, attended her funeral at McLaurin Funeral Home in Clayton – three days after Adkins herself became the 27th addition since 2006 on the county’s list of teen accident victims.

According to her mother and published reports, the 18-year-old CHS graduate was returning to her home at 2100 Persimmon Circle, in the Bear Tree Run subdivision off Buffalo Road between Archer Lodge and the Flowers Plantation, shortly before midnight on Saturday. Adkins had been visiting her boyfriend, Tony Helms of Kenly, and had called to tell her mother she’d be later than her expected 11 p.m. arrival home.

“How many 18-year-olds still come home by 11 p.m. on the weekend and call their parents to let them know she’s on the way?” Ernie Adkins said. “She was a good girl.”

Adkins was driving her 1996 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck – which originally belonged to her dad – north on Buffalo Road from N.C. 42 East and was within yards of the entrance of her subdivision, the intersection of Buffalo Road and Raintree Drive, when a south-bound Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by 29-year-old Desiree Olsen, of 393 Woodson Drive in the Riverwood subdivision, crossed the centerline and hit Adkins head-on.

The impact threw the Tacoma off the road and onto a wooden fence near the intersection of Buffalo Road and Kentucky Drive, where it came to rest upside down, pinning Adkins – who was wearing her seat belt – in the wreckage. She was pronounced dead at the scene by medical personal in first responders units and troopers from the state Highway Patrol.

Ernie Adkins, who heard the crash, said she could see the site from her house. She and her husband walked to the crash site – not realizing, at first, that her daughter was involved – and were told at the scene that their only child had been killed.

Olsen was transported to Wake-Med, where she was listed Monday in fair condition with injuries suffered in the accident. The Highway Patrol has charged Olsen – who, according to published reports, admitted she had been drinking – with driving while impaired and one count of felony death by motor vehicle.

A spokesperson at the county Highway Patrol post said Monday that a report on the accident, listing the results of a breathalyzer test administered to Olsen at the scene, was unavailable.

Calls to Trooper C.T. Oravits, who is investigating the accident, were not returned before deadline, but Adkins said she was told by Oravits that Olsen was estimated to have been driving between 70 and 75 miles per hour – 20 miles over the speed limit – when she went left of center and hit Shannon Adkins.

Billy Friedrich, Adkins’ guidance counselor at Clayton High School, remembered her as “one of the most delightful students I’ve known in the three years I’ve been here,” he said Monday.

“She was very hard-working and very much involved with that project on teenage accidents,” he said. “It’s a very sad day here.”

Lynn Hartley, who oversees senior projects at the school, said, “Shannon was very enthusiastic about that topic. That’s what first struck me when I heard [about the accident] – the first thing I said to my husband was, ‘That’s what she was researching last year.’”

“I’m nobody’s mama anymore,” Ernie Adkins said. “That woman [Olsen] took my baby from me.

“You live for your children; you think you have the game plan all figured out. I was going to retire in five years [from the state Department of Corrections]. Shannon would have graduated by then, maybe been planning on getting married. I could have helped taken care of her kids. Now, I’ll never be a grandmother.”

Adkins is the seventh Johnston County teenager – and the second in seven days – to die in a county traffic accident since the first of the year.

On Oct. 31, Benson resident Steven “Drew” Smith, a senior at West Johnston High School, was killed when a pickup truck in which he was riding lost control and overturned on Zack’s Mill Road. The driver of the truck, 17-year-old Dennis Dewitt, has been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.

Both accidents come just days before a planned countywide public forum about teen driving fatalities headed by county Commissioner Tony Braswell.

The forum is scheduled for Thursday at the county Agricultural Center on N.C. 210, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

“I just hope there is some good that comes out of this,” Ernie Adkins said Monday. “People have got to understand what is going on. This has to stop.”

Condolences may be made online at www.mclaurinatpinecrest.com. The family asks that that memorial donations be made to the Johnston County SPCA, 720 Durham St., Clayton, 27520.


Reader Opinions
NOV 22 • I just wanted somehow to convey my condolences to Shannon's parents. Such tragedies have unfortunately affected many people around me, and I am hoping to somehow help change things for the better. With all due respect to Bonnie, putting up more radars etc won't help. There will always be a time when there are no radars and an irresponsible person will decide to drive. It is only once people decide to respect one another by elevating their standards of behavior that we will see such tragedies disappear.
NOV 14 • I am a neighbor and also a mother. My heart breaks for the parents. Such a terrible thing. Something has to be done around here. Though it wouldn't have made a difference in Shannon's case, people drive way too fast on Buffalo Road. Some sections are 45 mph, some 55, but drivers do well over that all the time. There's an elementary school near the accident site where several wrecks have already occurred with many more close calls. My own children were nearly run down getting on the school bus when a driver failed to stop. We need help. Reduce the speed limit. Put up a traffic light like at Archer Lodge Middle School. More officers - more radar.

Do SOMETHING to protect our kids!
NOV 12 • My heart goes out to the parents of Shannon. I have a son and he is my only child. He has just got his license at 16 years old. I pray to God every time he leaves home that he will keep him in good hands. I cannot even imagine what this family is going through. I feel your pain and hope and pray that these kids realize the danger on the highway this day and time. God bless you!
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