WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A 2017 deadly crash at a dangerous intersection in Pender County is making headlines in court.
Julie Stahl was seriously injured and her husband, 60-year-old Kenneth Stahl, was killed when their SUV crossed over highway 421 at Malpass Corner and was struck by a tractor-trailer.
According to court documents, a woman called Pender County 911 on February 7th, 2017 reporting a stop sign was down at the intersection of Highway 421 and Malpass Corner Road.
“The stop sign at 421 and Malpass Corner is down,” said the 911 caller. “It looks like there was an accident there early today. But that’s a dangerous intersection for there not to be a stop sign up.”
The documents say there is no report showing the dispatcher who received that call, Daniel Bowden, ever informed the DOT about the downed sign.
Three days after the call, with the sign still down, the crash happened that killed Kenneth Stahl at the intersection. Investigators charged his wife Julie with failing to heed to a stop sign. The same woman who called 911 before the crash called again the day after it happened and spoke to a different dispatcher.
“I called earlier this week and they still haven’t come to put it back up,” said the caller. “And someone was killed at that intersection last night.”
Julie Stahl filed a lawsuit in 2018, accusing dispatcher Bowden of negligence. On Wednesday, the state Court of Appeals refused to give Bowden immunity, and ruled Stahl’s case will be heard by a jury.
“This is a very tragic case,” said Julie Stahl’s attorney, David Collins of Wilmington, to the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday. “We’re very pleased with the court’s opinion, and we’re looking forward to having our day in court.”
Years after the crash that took Kenneth Stahl’s life, people who live near the intersection say it is still dangerous.
“This area right here...there are always accidents here,” said Miguel Ramirez. “So, something needs to be done.”
“I call this the kill bill right here man,” added Carl Mims. “You don’t know when it will happen. It could happen at any time. It’s a busy traffic area.”
Highway Patrol says anyone who notices a traffic sign down should call *-HP and a trooper will be dispatched to check on it.