When learning how to drive, we’re taught about the potential perils and pitfalls of the road as well as how to stay safe. But Courtney Ann Sanford tragically succumbed to the former in April 2014, dying in a car crash in High Point, North Carolina. And during their investigation into the accident, police discovered that her Facebook page held the key to explaining her death.
Born on December 15, 1981, in Charlotte, North Carolina, Sanford had an impressive academic background. After graduating from West Forsyth High School, she went on to attend Western Carolina University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In addition, she later picked up degrees from the Independence University and Keiser University.
Following this education, Sanford then worked at High Point’s Bethany Medical Center as a certified medical assistant. And while she remained single, the 32-year-old was part of a big family that included her parents, two brothers, two nephews and a number of aunts, uncles and cousins. Sadly, though, tragedy struck in April 2014.
On the morning of April 24, 2014, Sanford was driving down the Business 85 Interstate in High Point. However, her car then swerved over the median strip and collided with a recycling truck. As a result of that head-on crash, both vehicles came off the highway, with the truck striking a tree.
While the driver of the truck, a 73-year-old man named John Wallace Thompson, came out of the wreck unharmed, the same couldn’t be said for Sanford, who died at the scene. Her car burst into flames as it ran off the interstate following the crash. Before long – though they could do nothing for Sanford – the emergency services arrived and began to assess what had happened.
Although the police concluded that the accident hadn’t been caused by over-speeding or ingesting drink or drugs on Sanford’s part, their investigation did turn up some other vital information. Friends and family of the 32-year-old informed officers of a Facebook post written close to the time of the collision. With that in mind, the authorities took a closer look at it and came to a startling conclusion.
“The Facebook text happened at 8:33 a.m.,” Lt. Chris Weisner of the High Point Police Department told FOX8 in April 2014. “We got the call on the wreck at 8:34 a.m.” And Sanford’s final status read, “The happy song makes me HAPPY!”
“In a matter of seconds, a life was over just so she could notify some friends that she was happy,” Weisner continued. “Within seconds after that, her life is over. It’s surely not worth it.” Meanwhile, investigators also discovered that a number of selfies had been posted by Sanford as she drove down Business 85 that morning.
The song in question was Pharrell Williams’ huge, Oscar-nominated hit “Happy.” The upbeat tune eventually became the best-selling track of 2014 in both America and the United Kingdom. It was also the most successful song of that year globally, selling over 13 million units worldwide.
“We’ve all seen the public service ads, whether it’s on YouTube or wherever,” Weisner told FOX8. “You know, these graphic advertisements showing what happens when you text and drive. This, yesterday, was real life.”
Weisner also suggested that Sanford’s death would serve as a warning to all drivers on the road. “As sad as it is, it is a grim reminder for everyone,” the police officer added. “You just have to pay attention while you are in the car.”
Moreover, the circumstances behind the crash also opened Weisner’s eyes as he talked about his own children. “I have three boys at home, two who drive,” he told FOX8. “You know they [text and drive], and you know we’ve all been guilty of it. It just brings home the realization that it’s really not worth it.”
This tragic story was picked up by several news outlets across the world, and the online reaction was sometimes incredibly scathing about Sanford’s final moments. Comments posted on the Daily Mail’s website perhaps embodied that attitude, as users criticized the deceased driver’s decision to use her phone while she was at the wheel.
“These kinds of stories scare me, especially when I’m on the road with my family,” wrote user crh25 from San Francisco, California. “My number one priority while driving is keeping focused and my eyes on the road. If the phone rings, I let it ring. Nothing is more important than my life, my passengers’ lives and anyone who is on the road with me. If you have to, put your phone in the trunk. It’s not worth it.”
That feeling was reiterated by fellow user Keln, from Columbus, Ohio. “It’s downright bizarre the things people are afraid of that have little or no risk of death associated with them, but then consider driving a vehicle to be a mundane activity, when it is in fact the most dangerous activity that the average person engages in,” they wrote.
“When driving, your eyes should always be on the road and your full attention on what you are doing,” Keln continued. “Turn the phone off if you just can’t avoid answering it or using it when a song comes on that you like.”
Fellow user Sophie, from St. Louis, Missouri, urged drivers to resist using their handheld devices on the road. “Please, put your phone in your purse or glovebox when you get in,” she wrote. “It is too much of a temptation (I know it is for me) if it is within reach for a ‘quick text’ or a ‘quick post.’ You don’t realize how far off track you go when you’re paying no attention.”
The 32-year-old Sanford is survived by her parents, Don and Beverly Sanford, as well as her two brothers, Zachary and Alex. She also left behind two nephews, named Jacob and Carson, and her grandmother Anita Shaw.
On the evening of April 28, 2014, Sanford’s parents held a special gathering to remember her life, welcoming her friends into their home. Then the following day, another service was held at the Clemmons Presbyterian Church as the departed’s family paid their respects and said their goodbyes.
So, on April 24, 2014, tragedy struck as North Carolina native Courtney Ann Sanford was killed in a car accident; and when investigating the crash, police discovered that she had been posting on Facebook moments before her death. Her tale serves as an unfortunate reminder of the dangers posed by using your phone while behind the wheel.