An alleged armed bank robbery suspect is dead and his getaway driver is in critical condition following a police pursuit in Gastonia Wednesday afternoon.
Police were dispatched to a report of an armed robbery at the PNC Bank branch at 500 S. New Hope Road shortly after 4:30 p.m.
Customer Michael Watkins said he was cashing a check at the counter when the suspect entered the bank.
"He told us to just stand back and he asked (the clerk) for money and then he got the money," Watkins said.
Watkins, who said he was afraid he might be shot, said the teller appeared to hand the suspect money from a drawer. Police have not said how much the man took.
A police chase followed, during which money flew out the window of the suspect's black SUV, police said. The chase ended when the SUV struck a minivan and careened into a ditch at the intersection of U.S. 321 and Crowders Creek Road just outside Gastonia during rush hour.
Neither the passenger, a white male, nor his female driver were ejected from the vehicle, which left debris strewn across the road.
Ava Mauney, from Gastonia, said she was attempting to make a left turn onto U.S. 321 from Crowders Creek Road in her minivan when the SUV struck her head-on.
"All of a sudden I was just spinning around in the road," said Mauney, whose 9- and 6-year-old grandchildren were in the van with her. Neither child suffered significant injury.
The man from the SUV was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead. The woman was taken to CaroMont Regional Medical Center in critical condition and then transferred to a hospital in Charlotte.
Mauney said she will probably go to the hospital as a precaution.
"I just praise the Lord that we are up and moving and seem to be OK," she said.
Police haven't released names of either person in the suspect vehicle.
Traffic was shut down in the immediate area while police investigated the wreck.
Highway Patrol and Gaston County Police are investigating the pursuit and wreck and seeking search warrants for the vehicle, while Gastonia Police handle the bank robbery portion of the incident.