2 killed in crash, including Hillside student

By KEITH UPCHURCH AND MATTHEW E. MILLIKEN

kupchurch@heraldsun.com; 419-6612

DURHAM -- A single-car accident in northern Durham Tuesday afternoon killed two people, including a Hillside High School freshman, police and fire officials reported.

Earlier information from officials had indicated that three people had been killed, but the driver of the car, Marcus Rogers, is in critical condition today at Duke University Hospital.

Investigators were given incorrect information last night that he had died from his injuries.

Hillside Principal Hans Lassiter said late Tuesday evening that student Destiny Taylor was one of the people killed in the crash, which occurred after the first day of classes for the 2009-10 school year.

A third passenger, Demonte Antwann Cissell, 22, of Willow Creek Circle, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Lassiter met Taylor -- whose first name was spelled Destinee, according to police -- last week when she was registering at freshman orientation.

"I just can't believe that someone at such a young age through such a tragic accident is no longer with us," said Lassiter, who was appointed principal of Hillside two weeks ago.

Taylor, who previously attended Neal Middle School, had a "very, very effervescent personality and was enthused about high school, was enthused about coming, was enthused about the new year, and that's the kind of energy you want," Lassiter said.

Grief counseling will take place at the Hillside theater throughout today. Social workers and counselors have been called in from other facilities in the district to aid in the effort.

The accident took place shortly after 3 p.m. when a 2004 Nissan Maxima driven by Rogers ran off the right side of the road while traveling east on Old Oxford Road near Craven Street by the city-county line.

All three occupants were ejected when the out-of-control car struck a ditch and flipped into the woods, police spokeswoman Kammie Michael said. Speed was a factor in the crash, according to investigators.

Fire officials said Rogers, 19, of Ruth Street, and Taylor were found in nearby woods.

A child's car seat also was thrown out of the vehicle. That led police, firefighters and sheriff's deputies to search the area along with two dogs to determine if an infant had also been ejected, but no child was found.

Fire Battalion Chief Willie Hall said the car was upside down and leaning against a tree when he arrived after responding to the call, which came in at 3:05 p.m. He said the car appeared to be destroyed.

Hall said two dogs -- one from the Durham County Sheriff's Office and one from the city police -- assisted in the search for victims.

The accident started in the city limits and ended up in the county just past the city-county line, Deputy Fire Chief Barry Yeargan said. He said "about 12 or 14'' city firefighters were sent to the scene. He said no fires broke out.

At least four Durham County sheriff's cars were at the scene, as well as a sheriff's cadaver dog, according to Maj. Paul Martin.

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