SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Two men sit side by side on the stoop of the Bear Branch Baptist Church where they come to pray.
"I still can't wrap my mind around it. I ask the Lord how and what was the reason was for both situations," said Bo Malpass.
Bo and Lee Malpass, father and son, accidentally took the lives of three people in a pair of deadly vehicle crashes a little over a year ago.
"Anyway you look at it, it's just really sad that that happened," said Bo Malpass.
Lee's fatal accident
The story begins on Aug. 12, 2017. Lee Malpass, then a 15-year-old who had only had his permit for three months, was driving with his grandmother on Hwy. 117 when he tried to make a left turn on Hwy. 210 and struck 50-year-old Lindsay Mathis as Mathis was riding his motorcycle.
"I still think about him every day, and I hope the whole family is doing all right," Lee Malpass said. "I am still so sorry about what happened."
Mathis' mother, Faye Decatur, forgave the teen after the accident, and even accompanied him to court as he faced a misdemeanor death by motor vehicle charge. He has since completed his three months of probation, received his license and bought a truck.
"At first, it was hard to get back on the road, but now, I'm more aware and I pay attention to more people," Lee said.
A rising junior in high school, Lee underwent grief counseling after the crash.
"What really helped me is the friends I have this year at school," Lee said. "I can't imagine my life without those guys right now. They have helped me so much."
Bo's fatal accident
In the early morning hours of Sept. 29, veteran truck driver Bo Malpass, 47, of Currie, was behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer in Columbus County when a red car pulled out in front of his log truck. Bo blew the horn, but it was too late.
That accident took the lives of Rebecca Roberts, 30, of Riegelwood, and her 8-year-old daughter, Constance, at the intersection of NC 87 and NC 11.
"I think about Rebecca and that little girl all the time," Bo said. "The little girl is the last thing I remember after the car pulled out. She just stared up at me."
Bo Malpass, a former firefighter, tried to render first aid at the scene. He was taken to the hospital with minor injuries but did not face any charges.
"In 18 years of driving, that's always been my worst fear that that was gonna happen," said Bo. "It has been such a hard year. I am not ready to get back into a truck. I can't deal with it."
Like his son, Bo has also been going to grief counseling.
"At times, I wonder if my situation happened so I could better understand Lee, and to help him get through his situation and help him move forward in life," said Bo.
Bo says he and his son have grown closer through these unfortunate circumstances.
"We have spent a lot of time talking things through, helping one another," said Bo. "You still can't wrap your mind around it. How can two similar accidents like that happen just weeks apart?"
Bo says he will soon go back to school to get his GED and perhaps get back in the fire or forestry service.
"We both didn't plan on doing this. It just happened, and it was in God's plan," Lee said. "We both just pray for the families."
Changes at intersections
After Mathis' accident at the Hwys. 117 and 210 intersection, residents and drivers in that area started a petition asking the Department of Transportation to add lights with left-turn signals.
Residents were told months prior to the accident that the DOT reviewed the intersection and determined the technical warrants had not been met to make those changes.
The letter went on to say the department would approve the installation but there was "not a funding source available for this type of installation." The DOT said the cost to complete the work would be $31,000.
On Friday, WECT's Chelsea Donovan drove through the intersection where the fatality occurred and found that a left-turn signal had been installed.
In Columbus County, the site where Roberts and her daughter were killed, a change came just days after their deaths. The intersection now has two sets of stop signs, making the intersection a four-way stop.
The NCDOT says the intersection will eventually be upgraded into an interchange complete with bridges and ramps. However, construction isn't expected to begin for a few years.