2 killed, 5 seriously injured in early morning crash

University of Mount Olive mourns loss of student-athletes

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Two University of Mount Olive student-athletes died and five more were taken to the hospital following a car crash in southern Wayne County.

The university released the student-athletes’ names Friday afternoon.

Madison Mergl, an 18-year-old freshman exercise science major from Sayville, New York and 19-year-old sophomore agribusiness major Ann Wray of Oakland, New Jersey, died as a result of the injuries they sustained in the early-morning crash.

Five student-athletes were airlifted to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. Those players are sophomore biology major Tiffany Lee of Gambrills, Maryland; freshman exercise science major Alex Eubanks of Bowie, Maryland; freshman exercise science major Chaney Partrich of Chapin, South Carolina; sophomore healthcare management major Amber McCarthy of Havelock; and former baseball player and senior business management major Jett Swetland from Sparta, Ohio.

Alcohol is believed to have played a role in the wreck, according to the N.C. State Highway Patrol.

Troopers say a tractor trailer was traveling westbound on N.C. Highway 55 around 12:48 a.m. Friday when a black Jeep, carrying the UMO students failed to yeild to the oncoming truck and the two collided.

The Jeep was merging onto the road from State Road 1744 Indian Springs Road. Both vehicles came to rest off the roadway.

Five passengers in the backseat of the Jeep were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the wreck and were ejected from the vehicle, according to the Highway Patrol. Wray was riding in the front passenger seat and was wearing a seatbelt.

The investigating trooper noted that a failure to yield the right-of-way and alcohol were contributing factors in the wreck.

“It is a sad day for the University of Mount Olive,” said Dr. Ed Croom, interim UMO president.

“We are in prayer for everyone involved in this horrific accident. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families of Ann Wray and Madilon Mergl, and we uplift all of the others in our prayers as they continue to receive medical treatment. The University of Mount Olive is a closeknit community and this has hit us all hard.”

The university continues to monitor the situation.

A team of professionals are on campus to offer counseling. Rodger’s Chapel was opened extended hours for prayer Friday.

The driver of the tractor trailer was not injured.

The crash remains under investigation.

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