By Dave Russell


Three accidents. Three days. Four lives. One week.

A pedestrian was struck and killed at about 9:15 p.m. last Tuesday on U.S. 441 in front of the Quality Plus service station at 342 U.S. 441 North.

Brittany Reid, 27, of Cherokee, was wearing dark clothing while crossing the road from east to west when a southbound Nissan truck hit her, according to N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott Smith.

Katelin Pelkey, 19, of Sylva, was driving the truck at about 50 mph, according to a report filed by N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Brody Crawford.

“There was not a pedestrian crossing there, nor was there good lighting,” Smith said. “The driver said she saw her (Reid) at the last minute and swerved. She almost missed her, just clipping her on the front left of the truck.”

Reid died at the scene. 

Pelkey was not impaired or speeding, Smith said, and no charges were filed.

The Qualla Fire Department and Harris EMS also responded. Traffic backup was minimal, Smith said.

Western Carolina University student Arabia “Rainey” Niles, 18, of Greensboro, was killed in a crash at about 3 p.m. last Wednesday on Little Savannah Road. She was in a car with two other WCU students, traveling north near Little Savannah Baptist Church when the accident occurred.

Stanley Cornelius II, 17, of Greensboro, was driving a 2008 Honda at 55 mph, heading into a curve.

“He was going too fast in a curve, lost control and went left of center and hit a dump truck head on,” Smith said. “Ms. Niles was in the rear seat with her seatbelt on, so (her death) has kind of baffled us. This was a head-on with no side impact.”

Harris EMS transported Niles to Harris Hospital.

“She was unresponsive on scene and passed away later,” Smith said. “She had life signs before they transported her, but it wasn’t looking good.”

Cornelius and the front passenger, Robert Manry, 18, of Greensboro, also had seatbelts on. They were transported to the hospital but their injuries were not life threatening, Smith said.

Paul Parcher, 63, of Brevard, was driving the dump truck, which belonged to Slade Trucking of Waynesville. Parcher was reportedly traveling 35 mph when the impact occurred.

Traffic was backed up about three hours. In addition to the Highway Patrol, Harris EMS and the Cullowhee Fire Department responded.

Cornelius was charged with exceeding safe speed, driving left of center and misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, Smith said.

The speed limit on that stretch of road is 35 mph, with yellow warning signs suggesting cars not exceed 20 mph in the area around the church at the intersection with Roscoe Lewis Road.

Niles was majoring in middle grades social studies in the College of Education and Allied Professions. Her funeral was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Greensboro.

Two people were killed and another severely injured last Thursday in a head-on collision on U.S. 441 south of the intersection with Camp Creek Road.

The call came in to dispatch at about 6:20 p.m., according to N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Ray Blanton.

Lydia Hinton, 36, of Sylva, was driving southbound in a 2016 Dodge minivan when she crossed into the northbound lane and hit a 2005 Nissan Altima driven by Sarah Tilley, 62, of Reidsville.

Tilley’s husband, Ronnie Tilley, 63, was a passenger in the car. Both were pronounced dead on the scene.

Hinton suffered severe injuries and was transported by Harris EMS to Harris Hospital and to Mission Hospital in Asheville via a Mountain Area Medical Airlift helicopter, Blanton said.

Both vehicles were traveling an estimated 50 mph at the time of impact. 

Leonardo Yerena-Pichardo, 45, of Whittier, was driving a 1993 Chevrolet truck a short distance behind the Tilley’s vehicle and lightly struck it. He was not injured.

Everyone involved was wearing seat belts.

The road was closed and traffic was backed up almost three hours, Blanton said.

Charges are pending against Hinton. Alcohol and drugs are not suspected in the crash.