Road debris hit teacher's car, causing fatal wreck, trooper says

Whelan, left, with a student, Dylan. (Source: Guestbook photo from her obituary)
Whelan, left, with a student, Dylan. (Source: Guestbook photo from her obituary)

GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) – A wreck that killed a Gaston County teacher who was driving to school was caused by an object that flew into her car from another lane according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

The wreck happened around 7 a.m. on Tuesday, August 30, as 27-year-old Christina Whelan was driving to school from her Charlotte home on I-85.

A piece of metal from a truck traveling in the opposite direction flew across the median and hit Whelan's Toyota Scion. The spring is 20 inches long and weighs about 15 pounds.

The object hit Whelan's car causing her to be incapacitated, the highway patrol said.

Whelan's car hit the concrete median and ran off the right side of the road into some trees.

She was taken to the hospital where she died.

The highway patrol said it would be nearly impossible to track where the piece of metal came from.

The object was described as a spring which is normally part of the suspension systems on dump trucks, but there was no serial number on the part.

Trooper Mark Helms said alcohol was not a factor in the crash and Whelan was wearing her seatbelt.

Troopers at the scene spoke to witnesses who initially thought there was an explosion inside Whelan's vehicle and that debris from her car struck the witnesses' vehicles. However, that has since been ruled out.

The Highway Patrol's Accident Reconstruction Team downloaded data from Whelan's car to help with the investigation.

Whelan was a second-grade teacher heading to work at Carr Elementary School in Dallas, NC, when the accident occurred. This would have been her first year teaching second-grade students.

Prior to working at Carr Elementary, she worked as a first-grade teacher at Brookside Elementary.

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