ONSLOW COUNTY - Family and friends are sharing memories of an Onslow County grandfather killed in a two-truck wreck Wednesday.
"He loved the people, he loved the customers, he loved people coming in, talking to them," said friend Paul Bryan of 65-year-old Erwin Gene Sanders.
Sanders, of Richlands, died after his truck collided with another truck on Richlands Highway near Jacksonville Wednesday afternoon, said Trooper M.P. Jones of the Highway Patrol.
Sanders was the owner of Sanders Auto, a business that's been open since his father started it in the 1950s.
"He'd joke with you, and he treated you just like family," said Bryan, who was one of Sanders' customers.
Sanders was driving his maroon pickup truck on Richlands Highway towards Jacksonville Wednesday afternoon, said Trooper Jones. But Sanders did not see another vehicle making a right-hand turn in front of him until it was too late. He then swerved left, went into the north-bound lane, before colliding with a silver pickup, Trooper Jones explained.
The wreck happened in front of Eastern Outfitters at 4819 Richlands Highway, less than 7 miles northwest of Jacksonville. Crews got the call just after 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Sanders was airlifted to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where he later died, said Trooper Jones.
"There are not enough words that can describe the kind of guy he was," Bryan said. "The community's going to miss him, and I'm going to miss him as a friend. He was a great guy."
Sanders was not only a successful businessman. He was a supporter of the schools, a Rotary Club member, a Vietnam veteran, and a former volunteer firefighter, said loved ones. But most importantly, he was always a good friend and family member.
"[Sanders] was the perfect brother to me," said sister Hargett Sanders. "There were five of us. Gene was by far the most personable. I'm the oldest, so I saw it all. I saw the beginning, and to the end."
"I'm very proud to have known him in this life, and he will be sorely missed," Hargett continued. "I can assure you, he's going to a greater life... a greater place."
Sanders' memorial service is scheduled to take place in the Richlands High School auditorium at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Five people were in the silver pickup that collided with Sanders' vehicle, Trooper Jones said. They were all taken to Onslow Memorial Hospital with non-life threatening injuries and are expected to be okay.
No charges will be filed against the driver of the silver pickup, Trooper Jones added.
A helicopter landed on Richlands Highway to assist the injured. That section of the road was initially closed, but has since reopened to traffic.
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