Raleigh, NC — Former Atlanta Hawks player Lorenzo Charles was killed Tuesday afternoon when the commercial bus he was driving on Interstate 40 in Raleigh, North Carolina, suddenly veered off the road and crashed. Charles, 47, was widely regarded as a hero in this basketball-crazy state for a last-second dunk that delivered a stunning victory to underdog North Carolina State in the 1983 national college championship game against Houston.
According to the Raleigh Police Department’s accident report, the Charles’ bus crashed at 3:47 p.m. while traveling on I-40 westbound. Charles, who worked for Elite Tours, a commercial bus company based in nearby Apex, N.C., had just started his workday and was headed to Durham to pick up a group. The police report says that the tour bus was traveling about 70 mph on the interstate, which has a posted speed limit of 65 mph, when it ran off the right side of the road “for an unknown reason.”
The bus traveled about 400 feet in the grass alongside the interstate before crossing the Chapel Hill on-ramp and striking several trees in a wooded area. The bus then rolled backwards down a hill toward the interstate and came to a stop. Police video of the single-vehicle crash showed tree limbs sticking through the bus’s shattered windshield. There were no passengers on his bus when the crash occurred.
The crash remains under investigation and police are searching for witnesses who might be able to provide more details about the crash. Investigators working to determine the cause of a single-vehicle crash must consider a number of possibilities.
Mechanical problems such as a loss of brakes or blown-out tires can be the result of poor maintenance or vehicle defects. Investigators also look at the driver’s hours-of-service log to figure out whether fatigue may have been a factor in crashes involving commercial trucks and buses. Single-vehicle crashes are also commonly linked to driver distractions (eating and drinking, cell phones and other handheld devices) and medical conditions (heart attack, stroke, seizure).