CRAVEN & JONES COUNTIES - The N.C. Department of Transportation will be reducing the speed limit on Catfish Lake Road, the scene of several fatal wrecks in recent years.
According to the NCDOT, the road will have a speed limit of 35 mph, down from 55 mph. Crews will be putting up the new speed limit signs along about 15 miles of the roadway on Tuesday, March 18.
Catfish Lake Road, located in the Croatan National Forest in Craven and Jones Counties, is often used as a shortcut between Havelock and Maysville. It connects U.S. 70 and U.S. 58.
But since the fall of 2009, there have been 10 wreck-related fatalities on that road. Killed were five Marines and a family of five, including three children.
Most recently on Jan. 7, two 19-year-old Camp Lejeune Marines were killed after their car overturned into a canal off Catfish Lake Road. Both died from drowning, according to base officials.
In addition, there have been 48 wreck-related injuries on that road between 2009 and 2013, according to the NCDOT.
"Safety is our top priority at NCDOT," said John Rouse,N.C. Department of Transportation Division 2 engineer. "Reducing the speed limit along this road will help protect motorists."
Law enforcement officers will be patrolling the area.
The Marine Corps banned Marines from driving on Catfish Lake Road in 2010; the only exception is if the road is used for recreational purposes.
In 2011, a family of five died after getting into a crash while driving on Catfish Lake Road. Inside that car were parents Maria Gonzalez, 24 years old; and Abdiel Salis, 24 years old. Also inside were three children: 6-year-old Alexander Gomez, 2-year old Adyelis Sal Gonzales, and 4-month-old baby Abdiel Salis Jr.
Troopers say Maria Gonzalez was behind the wheel when she lost control and ran off the road into the neighboring canal.
Her mother, Joanne Hernandez Argueta, says she still mourns the lost of her family members. The news of the speed limit reduction brought her little closure.
"It's just, everybody says it gets easier, but it doesn't, it's just like it happened yesterday to me," Argueta said. "I'm just glad they are finally lowering the speed limit because 55 miles per hour on that road is almost impossible. It makes me feel good that they are finally doing something, but if I can be honest, it's not enough."
Argueta believes if the road remains open that guard rails should be built to protect people from going into the canal, and that the road should be paved.
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