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Family, police urge drivers to secure items after grandmother killed on I-76 while removing highway debris

Carasee Lee was on phone with best friend when tragedy struck
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Posted at 7:43 PM, Mar 08, 2023

AKRON, Ohio — An Akron grandmother, known for her kindness and helping others, was killed when she was struck by a car as she tried to remove a table that landed on Interstate 76.

The family of Carasee Lee, 58, and police are now urging drivers to make sure items being transported in cars and trucks are secured to prevent another possible tragedy.

Lee's daughter, Destanie Wimberly, says her mom was active in her church, loved making people laugh, enjoyed volunteering and always looked for ways to help people.

"She walked by God. She was very, very much into God, so she figured that was her assignment," Wimberly said.

She worked for Ford for 16 years and most recently was employed by Hendrickson in Canton. The plant designs and manufactures air suspension systems and components for heavy-duty trucks and trailers

Lee's family and her best friend, Karen Ellis, were not surprised that Lee was trying to protect other drivers around 9:30 a.m. Sunday on I-76 near U.S. Route 224, also known as the Kenmore Leg.

Ellis was on the phone with Lee when she spotted a wooden table in the highway.

"As she was driving, she was like, 'Oh my goodness, there is something in the road. What the heck?'" Ellis recalled.

According to police, Lee stopped in a travel lane and got out of her Kia Sorento to remove the table.

Ellis continued to urge Lee to stay in the car.

"I'm still screaming, 'Carasee, Carasee' —screaming her name— 'Get back in the car! What are you doing?'" Ellis told News 5.

And then just moments later, Ellis heard a terrible screeching noise.

"I can't get that screech out of my head," Ellis said.

Police said a 23-year-old man, driving a Honda Civic, struck Lee who died on the scene. The investigation continues, but police do not think he will face any charges.

"The driver could not or did not have enough time to stop," said Lieutenant Michael Miller.

Wimberly said she feels for the driver.

"I just want to hug him. I just want him to know I'm not angry. I'm hurting, but I'm not angry," Wimberly said while fighting through tears.

Lee's family and Miller said the tragedy reinforces the importance of securing any items that drivers are hauling in or on their vehicles.

"Bungee cords and straps, and things of the nature, are very inexpensive. You can buy them at any hardware store— just secure the load properly and take the time to consider other motorists," Miller said.

Wimblery advocates having items locked down before driving.

"I know everybody is in a rush these days and I get it, but it just takes a moment, just a moment," Wimberly said. "Make sure you have your stuff locked down on your trucks beforehand so nothing is falling off."

Police stressed if you see debris on the roadway, drive around it safely when possible and do not get out of your vehicle. Instead, call 911.

"There are multiple ways we can get the right services there to free the debris from the roadway," Miller said.

While Lee's family can't change what happened, they take some comfort in knowing her last act of kindness will be remembered as another way she tried to help others.

"Her last days on this Earth, still doing something for someone. She died making sure someone else wouldn't get hurt," her daughter said.

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