CLAYTON – The driver of a plumbing truck that collided with a daycare van killing the van’s driver has pled guilty to second-degree murder and driving while impaired. Seth Charles Tracy of Holly Springs entered the guilty pleas on Wednesday, July 28th in Johnston County Superior Court. He was sentenced by Judge James Ammons to an active prison sentence of 10 to 13 years.
Around 4:00pm on November 6, 2018, Martha Darlene Peterson of Kenly was driving a van for her employer, Kid’s Country Daycare in Clayton. The 39 year-old woman was driving five children home at the end of the school day when the daycare van she was operating on Barber Mill Road was struck head on by a Bizzy Bee plumbing van driven by Tracy. Peterson died in the crash. All five children were injured but not seriously.
According to the Johnston County District Attorney’s Office, just prior to the crash, a concerned citizen called 911 to report a plumbing van driving erratically on Barber Mill Road.
Investigating State Trooper Christopher Best determined Tracy was impaired on a substance other than alcohol. Video from Trooper Best’s patrol vehicle and the jail showed Tracy falling down and falling asleep during the course of the DWI investigation. A blood draw was taken and the NC SBI crime lab determined the presence of Alprazolam and Methadone in Tracy’s blood at the time of the fatal crash.
Troopers also located a video camera system on Tracy’s plumbing van and video of the events leading up to the crash were obtained by Trooper Roderick Murphy with the NC State Highway Patrol’s Accident Reconstruction Unit.
The video showed Tracy driving on Barber Mill Road crossing over the centerline over 20 times, meeting 50 other vehicles, and forcing many of the vehicles to take evasive maneuvers on the two-lane road. Those vehicles included three other daycare vans and a Johnston County school bus. The video shows Peterson pulling off the right side of the road to avoid the collision and Tracy’s plumbing can completely within her lane of travel at the time of impact.
A search of Tracy’s driving record revealed his involvement in 10 prior wrecks and 10 separate speeding convictions prior to November 6, 2018.
After interviewing Tracy’s coworkers at Bizzy Bee Plumbing, law enforcement learned he had a history of being impaired at work and the company hired an employee to drive Tracy to job sites. The video from the plumbing van confirmed minutes before the fatal accident, the other employee allowed Tracy to drive away from a residence.
Seth Tracy’s driving record, his history of substance abuse, and the horrendous nature of the crash caught on video led the District Attorney’s Office to pursue and obtain a conviction for the maximum charge allowed under North Carolina law.
District Attorney Susan Doyle and Assistant District Attorney Jason Waller represented the State. Glenn Gray represented the defendant. Family members of Martha Peterson were present in court.
“I would like to thank Trooper Christopher Best with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol for his excellent investigation as well as Trooper Roderick Murphy with the NC State Highway Patrol Reconstruction Unit for this determination and skill in detecting the video that became such a crucial piece of evidence in this case. I am grateful to these troopers for their dedication and commitment to keeping our roadways safe,” District Attorney Doyle stated.
“I also want to commend the 911 callers and other citizens who cooperated with the investigation. I hope the sentence Judge Ammons imposed provides a sense of peace to the victim’s family so they can begin the process of healing,” Doyle added.
In 2020, a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Seth Tracy and Bizzy Bee Plumbing was settled for $6 million.