The driver involved in a fatal crash on River Road on April 24 was found to have “multiple prescription and illegal narcotics in her system,” according to a search warrant filed by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
Twenty-nine-year-old Melissa Ann Henderson of Wilmington was driving a white SUV on River Road toward Carolina Beach around 9 a.m. on Sun., April 24 when the vehicle ran off the road near Snow’s Cut Park, crashed into a tree and burst into flames. Several people witnessed the scene, and some tried to pull the occupants out of the vehicle when it caught on fire.
Bystanders – among them Jay Muxworthy, a local restaurateur – were able to pull Henderson and her two-and-a-half year old daughter out of the burning SUV but were unable to save her 13-month-old son James Andrews III, who was seated behind the driver’s seat. Both Henderson and her daughter were taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, and Henderson was later transported to the burn center at the University of North Carolina Hospital in Chapel Hill. According to State Highway Patrol Trooper B.R. Phillips, one of the investigating officers, Melissa Henderson is still in the hospital.
Muxworthy, who along with his wife Amy owns the popular local restaurant franchise Flaming Amy’s, sustained burns when he tried to pull the occupants out of the SUV. He was also taken to Chapel Hill to be treated. He was the only person not directly involved in the accident who was injured.
Giant posters and cards were brought by loyal patrons into the franchise’s two Burrito Barn locations on Oleander Drive in Wilmington and on Lake Park Boulevard in Carolina Beach. Well-wishers included Carolina Beach town officials, members of the police department and even people from the New Hanover County Health Department (the department that gives restaurants their health ratings). Loyal customers from the area and as far away as Charlotte also left messages, calling Muxworthy a hero and wishing him a speedy recovery. He is now home recovering from his injuries.
Prior to the accident, several witnesses told investigating officers they saw the SUV driving recklessly down River Road, with one calling 911 to report the driver and others saying they had to stop in order to avoid colliding with Henderson’s vehicle. Witnesses five miles from where the crash happened told police they’d seen the SUV cross over into the opposite lane of travel and leave the road.
According to the search warrant, which was issued on April 26, Henderson’s 2004 GMC Yukon XL was searched at the New Hanover County C.S.I. Impound Lot. Items seized during the search included a silver metal case containing a torn clear plastic bag with seven green tablets that appear to have prescription drug markings, a melted plastic bottle with a lid, a silver spoon and a clear plastic container holding several razor blades. It is not clear what drugs were found in Henderson’s system.
When interviewed by investigators, Henderson’s boyfriend and the father of her two children said there was an ongoing investigation into the family by the Department of Social Services due to concerns over previous drug tests. Both children were buckled into child restraints, according to the Highway Patrol. The warrant also stated that Henderson does not hold a valid North Carolina drivers’ license.
According to Samantha Dooies, an assistant to New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David, no charges have been filed in the case.