A Gaston County man died early Saturday when a deer crashed through the windshield of a vehicle he was driving, causing it to run off the road and explode into flames, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol.
The victim was identified as Charles Barry Ervin, 69, of Bessemer City.
According to the N.C. Department of Transportation, about 90 percent of all animal-related crashes involve deer, and 50 percent of those crashes traditionally take place in the months of October through December.
Trooper J.B. Thornburg said he got a call at 6:30 a.m. Saturday about a wreck involving a white Honda Accord and a deer on Dallas Cherryville Highway.
On the way, Thornburg said he saw smoke in the distance.
I thought, That doesnt look like a chimney fire, he recalled. It looks like a house fire. When I got there I found a vehicle in a wooded area engulfed in flames.
The white Honda Accord was on the road about 900 feet away. The cars driver told Thornburg a deer had jumped off a bank onto her car which was traveling east. She was not injured.
Thornburg said the 150-pound animal then hit Ervins 2011 Hyundai SUV, which was headed west. The deer crashed into Ervins windshield before going out the back of the car.
The trooper said Ervins vehicle traveled 1,000 feet then ran off the road, coming to rest about 62 feet from the road. Thornburg said the vehicle hit a raised culvert area of a driveway, which may have ruptured the gas tank and caused the fire. But he said initial evidence indicates the deer caused the fatality.
Thornburg said the animals body was found by the roadside.
An NCDOT study found that in 2012 there were 20,181 animal-related crashes. That was the lowest number in three years, but helped boost the three-year total of crashes to 61,688 with 20 fatalities, nearly 3,500 injuries and more than $144 million in damage.
Deer activity is on the increase as a result of the mating and hunting seasons, NCDOT said. Crashes are most common between 5 and 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight. That is when more vehicles are on the road, deer movement increases and limited visibility makes it more difficult for motorists to see them on or near roadways.
The posted speed limit on Dallas Cherryville Highway is 55 mph, but Thornburg said there was no evidence of speeding by either driver. Also, there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs.
This was just an unfortunate, freak incident, Thornburg said.