Capture of state mental patients distracts drivers, triggers I-77 wrecks

STATESVILLE, NC (WSIC) – The capture of two teenage patients from Broughton Psychiatric Hospital distracted I-77 drivers in Statesville Thursday, triggering three accidents.

Law enforcement says the teens escaped during a trip to Statesville, but were taken into custody at the Broad Street exit by the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office which was assisting the Statesville Police Department. A source tells WSIC the group from Broughton was traveling to the Statesville Leisure Pool on Simonton Road. It’s unclear whether or not the group made it to the facility.

“Such excursions are part of routine therapy and support patients’ recovery from their illness and build coping mechanisms in community environments,” says NC Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Kelly Haight Connor in a statement to WSIC.

Connor says their primary concern is the well-being of patients and that the Statesville Police Department was contacted as part of routine procedure when the teens went missing.

The Statesville Leisure Pool is owned by the City which says a number of groups come to the facility but do not necessarily identify themselves. Responding to WSIC’s request for comment, spokesperson Nancy Davis said she would to seek additional information.

Trooper Allred with the North Carolina Highway Patrol says traffic was slowing on the northbound side at the time. The first accident happened at the Broad Street exit where the teens were being taken into custody. Allred says an accident near Garner Bagnal Boulevard and another south of that were both chain-reactions from the first.

Minor or no injuries were reported in two of the accidents. Details were not shared regarding the other.