Morning wreck on Highway 209
A three-vehicle accident Monday highlights longstanding safety concerns are still an issue at the Haywood County convenience center on N.C. Highway 209.
Around 9:25 a.m., Amber East stopped to make a right turn into the trash collection center to drop off her trash and head to an appointment in Asheville. But before she could make the turn, Anthony Sutton, who was driving in the same direction, did not notice her vehicle in time to stop.
Though Sutton attempted to swerve around her car, he rear-ended her Toyota 4-Runner with his Toyota Tacoma with such force that his truck flipped onto its side in the opposite lane. The impact caused East’s car to lurch forward and hit the front of a large truck driven by Jeff Wolfe, who works for Consolidated Waste Services, while he was attempting to make a right turn out of the collection center.
Though Wolfe’s truck had little damage, both East’s and Sutton’s vehicles were considered a total loss.
Both walked away from the accident, Sutton with a large gash on his forehead that he suspected would require stitches. East, visibly shaken from the accident, said she was going to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
Sutton said he has sat in traffic after others have wrecked in the same area, but this was the first time he had been directly involved. The thick fog that morning played a role in obstructing his view of the car ahead, he said.
NC Highway Patrol Trooper Mike Holcombe said wrecks at that same area are not uncommon — he’s worked three wrecks there himself.
“People driving don’t expect to see someone stopped here,” he said.
According to data from the NC Highway Patrol, there have been two other reported wrecks in the same area in the past year.
Robert Jenkins, who works at the collection center, sits in a small booth just inside the fence less than 10 feet away from the road. He said he’s seen at least eight wrecks, usually “fender benders,” in the same spot. However Monday’s accident was the worst he’s seen so far.
Sometimes he said he worries that an accident might send a car through the fence close to where he often sits while manning the convenience center.
Wolfe frequently drives his work truck back and forth from that convenience center and said it’s often difficult to safely drive his large truck out of the center.
The site is often used by residents in the Iron Duff, Crabtree and Fines Creek communities for everyday trash disposal. But entering and leaving the one-lane center can be dangerous, especially for large trucks.
“It’s in a place that is hard to get in and out,” said County Solid Waste Director Stephen King.
"I was just wondering how many more wrecks before the county commissioners will move it down to the old schoolhouse...something needs to be done before somebody gets killed down there."
In February, county commissioners discussed the possibility of moving the convenience center to a property at the junction of Yates Cove and N.C. 209, but that site turned out to not be suitable, said Haywood County Commissioner Chairman Mark Swanger.
"We are aware that is certainly less than ideal and we have looked extensively for another location in that area and have been unsuccessful to date," Swanger said.
While there isn't any room at the current site to expand it to two lanes, he said commissioners are looking at plans to make it easier for vehicles to enter the center.
"We do understand that there needs to be either a change of location or a change of design," he said, adding that commissioners would like to hear from anyone interested in selling or leasing property on N.C. Highway 209 that could be suitable for the project.
Until a change is made some residents may opt to take their trash to a different location.
East said she was glad her children weren’t in the back seat that morning and she hopes the county will soon come up with a solution to the safety issues at the collection center.
“I will never use this dumpster again,” she said adamantly.