Three days before Thanksgiving, Jeffrey Leonard was stunned when a North Carolina highway patrolman picked up his 18-year-old son Jonathan’s phone, informing him the teen had been killed in an accident.
"It's like a nightmare you don't wake up from," Jeffrey told WFMY News2.
Jonathan was a passenger in a vehicle less than a mile from his home in Lexington, and Jeffrey was texting his son moments before the crash.
After seeing the wreck, Jeffrey texted his son: "Where are you?” followed by "John answer me right now. There has been a very serious car wreck below the church... air care is here now... I want to know it isn't you."
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After Jeffrey didn’t receive a reply, he called his son twice. The second time, Sgt. R.C. Abernathy of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol picked up the phone and informed him of the tragedy.
Kayleigh Campbell, 15, was sitting in the backseat with Jonathan and she was also killed on impact. Campbell’s brother, Denzel Caige Campbell, 17, was sitting in the passenger’s seat and he remains hospitalized with critical injuries. Driver Jordan Deal, 16, only sustained minor injuries and has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, careless and reckless driving, a seat belt violation and a limited provisional license violation.
“In reading the texts, I could tell the father knew something was wrong," said Abernathy. "I picked up more or less to ease the father's pain of the unknowing … It's always difficult to tell a loved one [someone] had passed away. We try our best to do it with sympathy and understanding.”
Deal was speeding at the time of the accident and driving with the window down. He told officers that the wind caused his hair to blow in his face, obscuring his view, which made him miss a turn.
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Neither family blamed Deal for the crash, and called it a ‘tragic accident.’ They asked the public to pray for those involved.