NEW BERN - A New Bern man said he will be haunted by the death of a 12-year-old girl, after he hit her on Highway 70 Thursday night.
Troopers with the State Highway Patrol charged James Brooks, 67, with DWI for the crash near Goldsboro. In an interview at his New Bern home Thursday, Brooks said he hopes the family of young Heather Weir can forgive him for the crash.
"I have grandchildren who are her age," Brooks said. "If there's any way I can help with things the family needs going forward, I will gladly help them through this."
Weir was about to start the seventh grade at Eastern Wayne Middle School. She was spending the night at her best friend's house at the intersection of Powell Road and Highway 70, on the eastern edge of Goldsboro.
According to Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. G.L. Burton, Weir ran onto the road to look for her cell phone. She had been walking outside with her friend and classmate Brianna Pollock.
Brooks collided with Wier around 9:30 p.m., dragging her about 50 yards on the highway.
"His impairment was very obvious," Burton said in a phone interview Friday. "There was no attempt to swerve or break, his reaction time was minimal."
Weir was taken to Wayne Memorial Hospital, and then airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. The 12-year-old died from traumatic injuries at 1:49 a.m. Friday.
"She didn't know a stranger," said father Jason Weir at his Goldsboro home. "She was a loving person, in an academically gifted program. I can't believe she's gone."
Brooks' blood alcohol content is not yet known. Troopers escorted him to Wayne Memorial Hospital to take a blood sample for an accurate reading. The results will be made available in a matter of weeks.
Brooks drove a Ford F 150 with two other passengers on their way to Virginia. The New Bern resident said his life has changed forever.
"It hurts because she could've been my child."
Pollock and Jason Weir said Brooks did not have his headlights on when his truck hit Heather. Brooks traveled at 55 mph, the posted speed limit on the stretch of Highway 70 at Powell Road.
Heather's family members said it was not immediately clear why the two girls were walking on the side of the highway.
"We heard they might have been throwing rocks or something, I just don't know," said Heather's mother Denise Weir.
An autopsy will be performed next week. Brooks posted $500 bond and awaits his next appearance before a Wayne County judge.