When an employee receives or is entitled to compensation under this Article for an injury covered by G.S. 97-31 and dies from any other cause than the injury for which he was entitled to compensation, payment of the unpaid balance of compensation shall be made: First, to the surviving whole dependents; second, to partial dependents, and, if no dependents, to the next of kin as defined in the Article; if there are no whole or partial dependents or next of kin as defined in the Article, then to the personal representative, in lieu of the compensation the employee would have been entitled to had he lived.
Provided, however, that if the death is due to a cause that is compensable under this Article, and the dependents of such employee are awarded compensation therefor, all right to unpaid compensation provided by this section shall cease and determine. (1929, c. 120, s. 37; 1947, c. 823; 1971, c. 322.)