Troopers say a young boy died in a vehicle fire along the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway on Tuesday night.
The North Carolina Highway Patrol says a mother from Lenoir was driving west on U.S 74 with her two young children when her vehicle caught fire.
The mother and her 6-year-old daughter escaped the vehicle. But the troopers say her 2-year-old son, who was trapped in the vehicle, died.
Highway Patrol says the mother and her 6-year-old daughter were initially taken to Mission Hospital with critical injuries and then taken to a hospital in Winston-Salem.
Authorities said the fire was due to a vehicle malfunction. Troopers are investigating, but say it is difficult since there is not much left of the vehicle.
Traffic was back up for hours along the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway as responders from several agencies in Haywood and Jackson counties worked the scene.
It is a tragedy felt by people who live in the area.
Mary Bryson and her daughter Kristy are used to hearing traffic not far from their home on the nearby highway. But shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, the night before the Fourth of July, the mother and daughter knew something was wrong.
"Over here it was kind of smokey, pinkish color in the sky," Kristy said.
"We heard MAMA come in, land, and take off," Mary recalled.
The Bryson's said they are putting this family in their prayer line.
"I think they need prayers," Mary said.