Phillip Ray Austin, 43, was traveling on a moped at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 from his house in Liberty to Virginia when a vehicle struck him from behind on U.S. 29 North near the Barnes Street exit.
Highway Patrol spokesman Chris Knox said the impact caused Austin to fall from his moped and strike his head on the pavement. The other driver never stopped.
“They would have known they hit something,” Knox said. “We believe the lights were working properly on the moped and that there was no reason not to have seen him.”
Knox said the impact left little damage to the moped but hitting the pavement proved fatal.
Austin’s death left investigators and his family searching for answers.
“Every morning I think I have a breakdown,” said Beverly Perry, Austin’s sister.
Perry and Austin were the middle children in a family of six. Most of Austin’s family live in Tennessee, making his loss and the investigation even more difficult on them.
“My mother is having a hard time with it but she is faithful to the Lord and knows in her heart – and she will tell us – that even if it does not get solved here, whoever is responsible will pay for what they did in this lifetime or the next,” Perry said.
Perry said Austin’s daughter is having difficulty dealing with his death. It’s a loss Austin and his siblings went through with their own father 28 years ago, and Perry believes learning who caused the wreck would help bring his daughter closure.
Austin first moved to North Carolina to serve at the Base Camp Lejeune, before moving to Greensboro, where he had visited his aunt, uncle and cousins on weekends. Eventually, he moved to Liberty.
Perry said her brother had “a heart of gold” and would give anyone the shirt off his back.
Coming to terms with what happened has been difficult.
“There’s moments where you are mad,” Perry said. “You are angry because you wonder if the hit-and-run driver had stopped, would the outcome have been different?”
Would help have gotten to her brother faster, she wonders.
A Reidsville Fire Department incident report shows a passerby performed CPR on Austin until paramedics arrived. He was taken to Moses Cone Hospital where he died the next day.
Perry said he died from multiple head injuries and blunt force trauma, according to the death certificate.
Knox said Austin was wearing a helmet when he was struck. Perry said troopers told the family the helmet fell off at some point after the moped was struck. She said the damage to the helmet troopers described was so severe her mother refused to look at it.
Troopers immediately began investigating how Austin was hit and who struck his moped.
“It’s hard to know how to search for this vehicle because there isn’t much evidence left behind from a hit-and-run with this small of a vehicle,” Knox said.
Knox said troopers believe the vehicle that struck Austin’s moped might have minor damage.
Early reports from the Highway Patrol indicate the wreck left skid marks from the unknown vehicle. However, Knox said troopers later determined the marks had been caused by an accident involving a deer a day earlier in the same spot.
“That’s what makes this difficult,” Knox said. “We really do not have any leads to go on. Really, at this point, we are hoping to generate some public calls to us from someone who saw something that night. ”