I was doing about 40 mph, the view of water-filled potholes coming into view.
I slowed my Ford Ranger pickup, trying to find the best path to navigate through the bumpy minefield. In a second or two, I was past it, accelerating again toward 40 mph.
Such was my drive Saturday on Catfish Lake Road. Yes, that Catfish Lake Road, the site earlier this month of the deaths of two Camp Lejeune Marines in a car crash.
Skyler D. Way and Nicholas S. Buscarnera were both only 19 years old. Their car left the dirt and gravel road and flipped into the roadside canal. Both drowned before they could escape the car.
I eventually came to the spot on the road where the two young men had lost their lives, the location marked by a simple white cross. I stopped my truck and got out, examining the area.
The road didn’t look particularly rough in the area of the crash, but no one will ever know what really happened.
All it takes is one pothole to throw a car off line. The driver jerks the wheel back in an attempt to get the car straight and under control but instead overcorrects, sending the car sliding through the gravel and dirt. Once sideways, there’s nothing to stop it, except for that canal or maybe a tree. Neither scenario is good.
I tried to see how deep the water was in the area of the crash, but not wanting to slip down the embankment into the water on the cold 40-degree day, I thought better of it.
Still, I felt uncomfortable at the spot, the site where two men died. I know I was there to do a job — to take a picture to illustrate a story about the road. The Department of Transportation has no plans to pave the road or change it. They may look at speed limit signs.
We all know how well speed limit signs work on U.S. 70. I would guess they would be equally as effective on Catfish Lake Road.
I said a little prayer, asking God to look after the two men and their families, and then went to work, taking the photo that appears on today’s front page. I got back in my truck and headed for home.
I understand the purpose of Catfish Lake Road. It’s there to allow access for recreational activities in the Croatan National Forest. It’s not supposed to be the high-speed shortcut between Havelock and Jacksonville that it has become for some.
Of course, others may not be able to resist the temptation to joyride on the road, taking advantage of the dirt and gravel to spin their tires and have some fun.
Maybe in my younger days, I would have done the same thing. Now at 48, I’m probably a bit too old for such play — or maybe just a bit wiser, with the memory of a lone white cross next to a deep-water canal alongside the dirt road still fresh in my mind.
Ken Buday is the editor and general manager of the Havelock News. He can be reached at 444-1999 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.