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FIRST ON 3: 17-year-old dead after falling from truck on Cape Fear Memorial Bridge


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A teenager is dead after falling out of a truck bed on the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge Friday night.

Wilmington Police say the 17-year-old victim had been riding in the back of a pickup truck driven by his foster father, Jerry James Highsmith, 62, from Willard. Investigators say the victim had been attempting to secure a box spring and mattress in the bed of the pickup truck by laying on them.

When the truck reached the top of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge just before 8:15 p.m. Friday, Highsmith said a gust of wind lifted both the mattress and box springs, with the victim, out of the bed of the pickup truck and onto the bridge span. The boy suffered fatal head trauma, but was not hit by any other vehicles.

Witnesses told investigators the truck was going well below the speed limit

Wilmington Police Department traffic investigators, after consulting with the New Hanover County District Attorney's office, will not pursue any criminal charges, once the crash report is complete.

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If he was your son...

Maybe you should have been watching over him instead of the state, you THINK??? You are nothing but common trash, blame everyone but yourself right? The State my ass!! No he should not have been in the back of that truck, he should have been home with his real parents. Guess the State had a good reason for taking him.


This woman has just lost a child for goodness sake!
What kind of wicked brew are you spewing out today?

You reap what you sew. You don't know if your child might be next!


My dearest Maggie..

Sometimes facts are just hard and cold. So let's go over the simple facts here:
Option #1) The mother was so sorry the state took him away.
Option #2) The mother was so sorry she gave him away.
Pretty simple so far right? This being the case, the mother is just as at fault as the foster parent. It was an accident, those things happen. Had he been in her custody I am sure he would not have been in the back of a truck on this particular day. It might be heartless but it is the truth. If Mommy cared so much, he would have been home to start with. Now all the sudden she is seeing $$$$ signs and suddenly she sure seems to love her baby! I'm sorry but I live in the real world, maybe you should move here too.

17 YO Killed After Falling From Truck on CFM Bridge

I am so sorry this young man died.
So, If I were driving a vehicle with a mattress that was not tied down, and the mattress blew off my vehicle into another vehicle, and caused that other vehicle to crash; I would not be charged?????

Samantha, my heart goes out

Samantha, my heart goes out to you. My daughter was a friend of your sons and she ate lunch with him. I thought you would like to know he was very well liked and loved at Pender High.

Help me understand this

Help me understand this Wilmingtonians....How can you hit the steel beam from the back of the pickup truck? Doesn't quite make sense to me!! Sounds a little fishy!! Picture this...Sitting...riding across the CF Memorial bridge...and the beam knocks you off the truck??....No?...I can't picture it either!!


The mattress that he was on in the back of the truck blew out. He landed on the steel decking of the bridge.

bridge sadness

laws ..they are there to protect..where was the law to save this young mans life riding in the back of a truck?


Well Missy, children die all the time, choking on balloons, climbing trees, being hit by a baseball when playing ball, swimming, you name it. Do you really think we need more laws? Should it be illegal for a child to swim in the ocean? Play a game of baseball? We don't need more state and federal laws. Good parenting is a start, but in the end accidents happen. Deal with it.

It is my understanding that

It is my understanding that in Pender County, because of our population and percentage of farms and farmland, it is legal for persons of all ages to ride in the back of a pickup truck, though it is probably not the same for the more urban New Hanover County. But let's stop continuously trying to legislate good behavior from all citizens - accidents, very unfortunately, happen. If I die because of my own stupid choices so be it. I am tired of our rights to behave as we wish being slowly, deliberately taken away, all in the name of safety. When will downhill skiing being outlawed? I severely broke my leg, had to have bone grafted from my hip into my tibia. Many people die or are paralyzed and definitely severely injured downhill skiing across this nation every year. Should it be outlawed? Of course not. Deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. are down dramatically - under 30,000 per year now with more drivers and cars, where it used to be over 50,000 per year with fewer drivers and less cars. Sure, we can all walk around in helmets and steel-toed boots, it's much safer. Of course that would be a ridiculous idea, but are we not slowly marching in that direction with law after law after restriction after restriction continually being added to the law books across this nation? Life is dangerous.

You're comparing skiing

You talk about peoples freedoms being taken away and I agree that some laws are getting over protective but this doesn't just involve an individual's right. Hey if you ride in the back of truck at your own risk that's your choice. But when you risk falling out of that truck in front of other car that now swerves either into a tree or a on coming car, well now it's a matter of safety for the non-participating drivers who aren't riding in the back of a truck. So don't compare a skiing accident to a fatal traffic accident. Other people could of been killed due to this tragedy and thankfully they weren't. Just think about when that poor boy fell out of the truck and what if he landing in front of car that swerved into an coming car and many more people didn't get to go that night or ever. Just think about it Mr. Freedom.


People die in skiing accidents all the time, it happens. It was a fine analogy. What if a car swerves and hits another car killing the occupants? Should we make it illegal to drive all together? Hmmm maybe so. Every time there is an accident, we don't need the states making more laws. They happen. That's just part of life. Just think about Mr. Ignorant.

I so agree with you on this!

I so agree with you on this! I can't count how many times I have ridden in the back of a truck. Maybe laying on mattress and box springs isn't the smartest way, but it was a choice. We are supposed to be able to make some choices for ourselves the last time I checked. America being a free country is going further and further out the window! I read that every year 100 people die from being stabbed by a ball point pen. I bet there aren't that many that die riding in the back of a truck!



My Son

You have no idea what you are talking about he was 17 years old and should not have been where he was. So maybe when it happens to one of yours you will still have that uncaring attitude but don't have it with my child save it for your own.


Why wasn't your son living with you? Couldn't handle him cause he had discipline problems? Pretty sure the problem was with the disciplinarian here. Might want to ask yourself where you failed him as well as the failure of the foster Dad.

in reference to my son

I do not agree with anything you posted just shows how ignorant some are. That was my son you talking about buddy let it be one of yours. Do not ever offer your opinion as twisted as your opinion is. My son had no business in the back of a truck and was in a group home for behavior problems so i guess in N.C eyes he is not so important. Well let see how important it gets come Monday.

Yes, in reference to your son..

You have every right not to agree with the posting's on here. But unfourtunately for you we also have the right to our opinion and to post said opinion. Your son had no buisness in the back of a truck, he didn't have any buisness in the a group home either. If you had raised him right it could have all been avoided. On Monday his death will be just as important to the state as it was on Saturday. But good luck trying to cash in and sue. I'm sure that will be right around the corner. Maybe the state will sue you for your lack of parenting skills. How in the name of hell is the state of N.C responsible for your sons death? Do you think they had a crystal ball and knew in advance that he would be in the back of that truck? Yes let's play the blame game and blame everyone but yourself. Easy road isn't it?

First of all I want to say

First of all I want to say to this mother that my thoughts and prayers are with you along with The Foster family. Secondly I want to be very clear about one thing I knew your son and he was not in a group home he was with a family that loved and cared about him just like he was his their own. This was a horrible accident, I agree very tragic and my heart aches when I think about Franks life ending so young, but this is not our eternal home. I know you are hurt right now, but please don't think for a moment that your son was not loved and cared for. THIS WAS A HORRIBLE ACCIDENT!!!! Our community is mourning with you and we will continue to pray for peace and understanding.

Same child

Is this the same child that you gave up to foster care that you suddenly care so much about?

So, you can ride in the back

So, you can ride in the back of a truck with NO restraints, or seats even, and it is perfectly legal... if you are over 16. However, you get ticketed for riding IN the car, IN a seat (which is where you are intended to sit in a vehicle)for not wearing a seat belt. Makes perfect sense.

Laws are not enacted to make

Laws are not enacted to make sense. They are enacted to control people and make money for politicians.

Couldn't agree with you

Couldn't agree with you more. Riding in the back of a pickup is dangerous regardless of how you look at it. If the truck turns over, you're history. If someone else hits your truck, you will be thrown out with the same result likely. Maybe this guy is a candidate for the Darwin Award.

Makes sense to me

Of course it makes sense, doesn't it? Then again, I think you have a good point!

My Son

Exactly this was my 17 year old son and i will be coming for answers since he was in a group home in care of the state for behavioral problems. So I guess that makes him not as important.

"and it is perfectly

"and it is perfectly legal... if you are over 16." Not Dumbfounded, just dumb... or illiterate... or both.

"In the state of North Carolina, it is legal for those 16 and OLDER to ride in the bed of pickup trucks."

DAMN those lawmakers for trying to force safety on you and keep you alive. The nerve of some people.

Frankly they should lift all the laws for a bit let Darwinism do what it does best like it did here.

Bridge Damaged?

Within an hour of the accident there were workers busy underneath the bridge at both towers. Did the bridge suffer damage?

If im not mistaken they were

If im not mistaken they were supposed to be shutting down the right lane going into wilmington at 9pm for work on the bridge.

The bridge did not suffer

The bridge did not suffer damage, the bridge is scheduled for maintenance all weekend. It was supposed to start at 9pm last night but was delayed until 10pm due to the accident.


The bridge was uninjured....the crew had to clean it.. steel grate+ the impact of a human body traveling God knows how fast = a mess