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Benson girl, 10, on breathing tube after Wednesday crash

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BENSON — A 10-year-old girl remained sedated and on a breathing tube Friday after she was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries following a three-car crash late last Wednesday near Benson.

According to the N.C. Highway Patrol, Gracie Perez was unable to breathe on her own when first responders arrived on scene.

Gracie was taken to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at WakeMed and placed in a medically induced coma after suffering multiple skull fractures and bleeding in the brain from the crash. 

Gracie’s mother, Cynthia Hammons of Coats, said Gracie was still sedated and on a breathing tube Friday. Hammons said her daughter is in good condition, getting better and she described Gracie as a fighter. She said Gracie has undergone hip surgery and is awaiting word on whether she will need surgery on her foot and ankle.

Hammons was traveling north on N.C. 42 in a 2004 Pontiac when she approached a stalled 2005 Buick SUV sitting partially on the shoulder around 9:30 p.m. A third vehicle was approaching from the south when Hammons swerved to miss the SUV and Hammons struck it, according to state troopers.

The third vehicle, a 2006 Ford, is owned by Brittany Anneka Hollins of Dunn. The vehicle wasn’t drivable and the Highway Patrol estimated its damage at $10,000.

First Sgt. Derek Mobley said Friday the abandoned vehicle’s driver, whom he identified as Justin Phillips of Garner, ran out of gas and left the vehicle parked without the lights on.

“Many country roads, including state roads, aren’t well-lit,” said Mobley. “Seeing what’s ahead can be tough.”

Hammons’ 15-year-old son, Andrew Perez, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, sustained minor injuries after the airbag deployed. Andrew told troopers his sister Gracie, who was sitting in the left rear seat, was not properly wearing her seat belt.

According to the Highway Patrol, Hammons’ vehicle wasn’t drivable and sustained $15,000 damage. Hammons said most of the damage was on the driver’s side of her vehicle.

Phillips returned to the scene later but fled when he noticed the crash, state troopers noted in the report.

No charges had been filed Friday. The wreck remains under investigation.

Johnstonian News staff writer Steve Reed contributed to this report.