NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — A grandmother is dead, a family is mourning, and a little boy’s dream trip has been put on hold after a fatal car accident Saturday.
10-year-old Bryce Harrelson loves reading, chess, and legos. He’d worked odd jobs almost a year saving for tickets to Legoland with his father, Derrick Harrelson. And Saturday night after working at a rodeo, he finally had enough.
“And once he got that money, if I could’ve gotten off of work the next day, he was ready to go,” Derrick remembered. “He was just asking, asking, when can we go? When can we go? When can we go?”
After the rodeo, his grandparents Linda and James picked up Bryce and two of his siblings for a sleepover, driving down Gordon Road.
As they approached Kerr Avenue, the State Highway Patrol says 20-year-old Ernest Eddins III drove down the opposite lane. When he attempted to illegally pass a car in front of him, he hit the Harrelson’s head on. He’s since been charged with DWI and felony death by motor vehicle.
Linda died instantly, the rest of the family was immediately taken to the hospital.
Derrick, who works as an EMS worker, heard all of this play out over his walkie talkie. He didn’t make the connection until his wife called.
“My emotions were everywhere because I knew for a fact it was my mom,” said Derrick, “but what about my kids, what about my dad? What kind of condition were they in?”
Grandfather James had several fractures and broken bones. Bryce’s windpipe was cut in half. He had spinal fractures and serious head injuries.
When Derrick got to his son, Bryce woke up briefly.
“I asked him, you know daddy loves you, right? And he shook his head yes. And just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I asked him if he was in any pain. And he shook his head no. Which was awesome that he was recognizing those things.”
Derrick says Bryce is now in stable condition, though he’s still sedated and on a breathing machine.
Bryce’s parents haven’t left his side. They’ve spent the days since reading him his favorite books, and hoping he’ll be in a condition to do his favorite things like playing with Legos soon.
When Bryce does wake up, Derrick says he’ll be there. He already knows exactly what he’ll say.
“How proud of him I am, how strong he is. The impact he’s made on people’s lives. How much I love him. How much he means to me. ”
Bryce’s parents say when he wakes up, they want him to be surrounded by cards from people who care about him. Friends of the family have also set up two GoFundMe’s to help with medical costs for Bryce and for James.
If you’re interested in sending Bryce a card, mail it to:
4875 Cora’s Grove Road, Willard, NC 28478