Navy family killed in multi-vehicle highway accident

A dual military couple and their two small children were killed in an accident on the way home from a Mother's Day trip

Mike Gellatly
The Robesonian, Lumberton, N.C.

ROWLAND — Four people killed in the fiery multi-vehicle accident were all members of a U.S. Navy family who were returning home with their young children from a Mother’s Day weekend trip.

Elise Ann Spennati, 31, and Cole Allen Spennati, 25, and their children, Aila Spennati, 4, and Gianna Spennati, 1, lived in Goose Creek, S.C., where Cole was in the Navy Munitions Command at the Naval Weapons Station in Charleston, S.C. Cole specialized in underwater mines, and he had recently received orders to be stationed in San Diego, according to family members, and his wife was in the Navy as well.

The family was returning from a trip to Cole’s mother’s home in Pennsylvania when they died in the crash that happened about 1 p.m. Tuesday near the South Carolina border.

“RIP our precious cargo. You will never be forgotten,” Cole’s mother posted on social media. “We love you. Always.”

Comments from all across the country poured into the Facebook page of Cole’s mother, Jennifer Spennati, Wednesday.

Also killed in the wreck was tractor-trailer driver Michael Elliott Bricker, 68, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., who is be blamed for the accident.

The wreck happened near the seven-mile marker in the southbound lanes of I-95 where N.C. Department of Transportation crews were painting new lines on the highway.

According to investigating troopers, the 18-wheeler driven by Bricker entered the work zone behind traffic that was slowing. Bricker did not slow enough and hit the back of the pickup truck carrying the four members of the Spennati family.

The pickup was propelled into the back of a Ford Explorer, and the Explorer was pushed into the rear of a third vehicle, according to the Highway Patrol. Bricker’s Volvo big rig kept rolling and hit a Freightliner 18-wheeler, setting its load of gasoline on fire. The Freightliner then hit a third tractor-trailer.

Bricker’s vehicle went off the side of the interstate and caught fire, troopers said.

The crash shut down both directions of I-95 for almost 12 hours Tuesday.

The driver of the third vehicle was identified as Mary Ann Payne, 68, of Kansas City, Missouri. Payne was taken to Florence Medical Center in South Carolina with serious injuries. She was reported in stable condition.

The Ford Explorer was driven by Javier A. Estrada-Beltran, 46, of Charleston, S.C. He and his passengers, 35-year-old Francisco Morales-Gaspar and 34-year-old Lucia De-La-Cruz, were taken to UNC Chapel Hill with serious injuries and were reported in stable condition.

Four other people in two other vehicles were taken to hospitals in Chapel Hill and in Florence, S.C., with serious injuries, a statement from Highway Patrol said.

The drivers of the other two trucks, Dewey Wayne Harrington, 50, of Bunnlevel; and Stannie L. Kirkland, 58, of Sylvester, Georgia, were treated at the scene and released.

The accident occurred the day after two Lumberton men wrecked a tow truck on I-95, killing them both.


©2017 The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service