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LENOIR, NC (WBTV) -
A man died Tuesday in a traffic accident that investigators say appears to have been caused by a vehicle going the wrong way on Hwy 321, causing a head-on collision.
The incident was reported just before 3 p.m. along U.S. Highway 321 in the southbound lanes near the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol.
Investigators say that Jack Byron White, of Lenoir, was driving a 1994 Plymouth van traveling northbound on Hwy 321, and that evidence at the scene indicated that he crossed the median into the southbound lanes.
White's van traveled some distance north in the southbound lanes before colliding with a southbound 1994 Chevrolet Blazer, being driven by Donald Lee Roper, of Lenoir, and a passenger, Howard Lee Roper, who were on their way to the dentist.
Emergency personnel from Lenoir Fire Department and Caldwell County EMS responded to the scene of the crash. Donald Roper and Howard Roper were taken by EMS to Caldwell Memorial Hospital, where Howard Roper was pronounced dead due to his injuries.
Roper's family said Wednesday they are in shock over what happened.
"It's just not fair," said Jack Estep, Roper's son-in-law. Estep says the family has cancelled Thanksgiving dinner plans as they mourn the loss of the 92-year-old. "He was such a good man and had such a good life," said Roper's daughter Delores Estep.
Howard Roper lost his wife of 71 years just over a year ago and the family said he was just getting through the grieving process when this happened. "For some reason God took him," said Delores. "Now he's with mom."
The family said it is a tragedy for everyone involved and they are asking folks tonight to not just keep them in their thoughts and prayers, but to pray for the suspect and his family.
While he was being treated at CMH, officers learned that White had consumed alcohol prior to the crash. After being released, he was arrested and charged with driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle. He was taken to the Caldwell County Detention Center and given a $30,000 secured bond.
Donald Roper is still hospitalized in fair condition at CMH.
Police say that the investigation into the case will continue, and further charges could come, pending the outcome.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the Lenoir Police Department at (828)757-2100.