TROOPERS: None of 6 kids inside SUV were restrained; elderly man killed identified

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 6:27 PM EDT|Updated: May. 24, 2022 at 4:10 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - The Highway Patrol says none of the six children inside an SUV that rolled over Monday afternoon were wearing any seat restraints.

The crash happened around 4:15 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 33 and 306, west of Aurora in Beaufort County.

Sgt. Scott Hemby said 82-year-old Ernest Baker, of Aurora, was thrown from the vehicle upon impact and was killed.

Baker’s niece, 26-year-old Destiny Cooper, also from Aurora, was driving the SUV.

Hemby said there was a 7-year-old boy, a 4-month-old girl, a 3-year-old boy, a 1-year-old boy, a 10-year-old boy, and an unknown-age girl in the vehicle.

He said three of those children remain in very critical condition at ECU Health Medical Center, while the others have been released from the hospital. Four of the children are Cooper’s, while two others belong to a friend.

Several children were in this SUV when it rolled over.
Several children were in this SUV when it rolled over.(WITN)

Claire Sands says two of her kids were hurt in the crash. She says, “Isabella is fine, she’s undergoing surgery right now. She has a broken arm, but the doctor says that she is perfectly fine after her surgery. Emmitt, he’s basically not stable yet. They’re still trying to stabilize him. He has two collapsed lungs. His health due to the car accident is not good at all. Nowhere near good.”

Both of her children go to Snowden Elementary School in Aurors. Beaufort County Schools Public Information Officer Kristen Riddle says crisis counselors were on campus Tuesday. She says, “We are deeply sorry for everything that has happened. We’re obviously here if anyone needs anything and thinking about the family and good wishes for everyone that’s in the hospital.”

Hemby said Cooper’s vehicle was headed east when it ran off the road, overcorrected, crossed the centerline, overcorrected a second time, ran off the road, and hit a ditch. He said the SUV rolled over twice and landed upside down. He said they did not believe speed was a factor in the crash.

Cooper has been released from CarolinaEast Medical Center, and Hemby said charges are pending as they wait to see if the children pull through.


The mother of youngsters injured in Monday’s crash in Beaufort County says an elderly man died at the scene.

Claire Shands says she is the mother of two kids who were injured in yesterday afternoon’s crash.

Shands told WITN her children, Isabella Smith, 8, and Emmitt Smith 7, are at the hospital. She said Isabella is going into surgery and Emmitt is in the Intensive Care Unit.

Shands said eight people were in the SUV during the crash. The driver, the passenger, and six children. She said a passenger, a 92-year-old man, died at the scene.

Beaufort County school officials say crisis counselors will be at S.W. Snowden Elementary School to support students.

Aurora Volunteer Fire Department Chief, Kevin Bonner said the SUV overturned around 4:30 p.m. at the intersection of Highway 33 and 306 west of Aurora, and several people in the vehicle were taken to the hospital.

Troopers are investigating the accident.

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