No changes planned for Catfish Lake Road after deadly crash

catfish lake road

A sign on Catfish Lake Road warns of restrictions on military use of the dirt and gravel road where two Camp Lejeune Marines died in a crash earlier this month.

John Althouse/Halifax Media Service
Published: Friday, January 17, 2014 at 11:17 AM.

Officials continue to warn against the use of a popular cut-through where two Marines recently died. But no other changes are planned to the road.

While an improved road, Catfish Lake Road is unpaved and without guardrails or shoulders. What makes it even deadlier is that a long stretch of it is surrounded by deep water canals, said Curtis Toler, a sergeant with the Craven-Pamlico County Highway Patrol.

“There are many dangerous factors with this road,” said Toler. “We have a generation of young people that haven’t grown up driving on dirt roads. Then, this road is approximately 12 miles long and it’s isolated. If there is a crash, you’re not likely to be noticed immediately due to the flow of traffic. ... If you go off into a deep ditch, and most of them are full of water, the penalty is quite severe unfortunately.”

There have been 12 fatalities on Catfish Lake Road since 2001, including a 2010 crash that killed two Cherry Point Marines when the driver lost control of the vehicle; a crash the next year that claimed five family members traveling in an SUV that went into a canal; and most recently, the two Camp Lejeune Marines who drowned Jan. 8 when their vehicle ended up in a nearby canal.

The problem, Toler said, is that most people do not practice how to handle their vehicle when it goes out of control — something he said should be practiced in a safe environment with supervision from a driving instructor and not when heading for a ditch.

“First and foremost it’s not recommended for people to travel this road,” Toler said. “It’s designed for hunting or outdoor activities. It’s a cut-through for hunting and fishing. They’re not designed like U.S. 17 with a surface for going at a fast rate of speed. When it’s used as a main thoroughfare, you will see disastrous effects.”

Despite the most recent deaths and hundreds of crashes over the years, the N.C. Department of Transportation has no plans of improving the road any further, according to Preston Hunter, the division maintenance engineer for the NCDOT based out of Greenville.

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