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Police were looking for wrong-way driver before fatal collision

Posted July 16, 2012
Updated July 18, 2012

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— Raleigh police had been looking for a car traveling in the wrong direction on Interstate 40 Sunday morning minutes before the driver collided with a minivan, killing herself and a passenger in the van and critically injuring the van's driver.

A woman called 911 at 2:18 a.m. to report seeing the Toyota sedan traveling east in the left westbound lane near South Saunders Street.

"… Unless I'm totally seeing things, but I'm pretty sure I saw that," the caller told the emergency dispatcher.

Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said that officers on patrol were immediately notified to be on the lookout for the car.

By 2:23 a.m., it was too late.

Another motorist called 911 reporting a wreck near Jones Sausage Road, about 5 miles away.

"There is a terrible wreck right in the middle of Highway 40," the caller said. "The car's on its side, and I don’t know if anybody's in the cars or not."

Police say they aren't sure yet why Carolina Elizabeth Gonzalez Linares, 28, of Morrisville, was going about 65 mph when she collided head-on with a minivan driven by Natanael Bartoleme Hernandez, who was on his way home from visiting his girlfriend in Jacksonville.

Raleigh crash Police were looking for wrong-way driver before fatal collision

Linares died. The results of alcohol tests are pending, police said.

Hernandez was critically injured, and his brother – Job Misrael Hernandez, 17 – also died.

Natanael Hernandez's uncle, Kris Ramsundar, said the 21-year-old was in a medically induced coma because of a brain injury. He also suffered broken bones and internal injuries.

"It's been horrible dealing with not just an accident and an injured child," Ramsundar said. "There's also a dead child, so it's been very, very tough for this family to deal with."

Ramsundar said the brothers were inseparable.

Job Hernandez was a rising junior year at Enloe High School, where he was on both the track and football teams.

He was a talented musician who taught himself to play the piano, his uncle said. Both brothers were in a band with their third brother, Lemuel Hernandez.

Their parents are pastors of a Spanish-speaking congregation, called Santuario, at Milner Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Ramsundar said their father, Elbis Hernandez, said that, while there is grief in his heart, there's no anger toward Linares.

"He said, 'I would like the community to know, I won't harbor any hard feelings, and my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.’”

Ramsundar said that they are a family of faith, and that's what's helping them to cope with their loss.

"We know our life here is just a stepping stone," he said. "Too often, we tend to hold on to what we have here and not follow God's will."

A funeral fund has been established to help the Hernandez family with funeral expenses. Donations can be made to Hernandez-Carattini Funeral Fund, c/o Santuario at Milner Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 14003, Raleigh N.C. 27620.

Job Hernandez's funeral is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Comunidad Cristiana Hosanna, at 204 Sheldon Drive in Raleigh. A visitation is planned prior to the funeral, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

A private burial is planned for Thursday.

14 Comments

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  • childofNC Jul 17, 2012

    "How about telling the closet patrol car to give chase rather than a general "be on the lookout" message."

    Really? Tell officers to give chase on highway going the wrong way when they aren't sure how fast the car was going or if it had gotten off on the next exit? What a reckless response. I'm sure the officers were trying to get to her before she hit someone but 5 minutes between the first 911 call and the second (AFTER the accident) just wasn't enough time. This is real life, not Hollywood. The police officers aren't mere seconds away. Unless they were within two minutes of the location, they couldn't have been there in time. Not their fault. Fault rests upon the driver of the Toyota and on her ALONE.

  • redwarrior Jul 17, 2012

    seankelly15, I can assure you, if they were in the area, they were looking...

    Try as they might, they cannot prevent all bad from occurring.

  • seankelly15 Jul 17, 2012

    "A woman called 911 at 2:18 a.m. to report seeing the Toyota sedan traveling east in the left westbound lane near South Saunders Street.

    "… Unless I'm totally seeing things, but I'm pretty sure I saw that," the caller told the emergency dispatcher.

    Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said that officers on patrol were immediately notified to be on the lookout for the car."

    You knew the driver was on the interstate and you had a report of where the car was last seen and the direction it was headed. How about telling the closet patrol car to give chase rather than a general "be on the lookout" message.

  • iwasjustsaying Jul 17, 2012

    Prayers to all. I am so sorry for your losses. I wonder just how much bad will happen before people realize what they are doing to themselves and to each other.

  • halfpint1552 Jul 17, 2012

    Is it just me or has there been way too many cases of drivers going the wrong way in Raleigh late at night and killing people? Is it just because of the nightlife in that area and people driving home intoxicated? Another life lost to irresponsible behavior.

  • DeannaU Jul 16, 2012

    I know your heart is heavy with the loss of your son, but yet you hold no grudges against the young lady who hit him. God bless you for your forgiving heart and may God comfort you and your family in your time of sorrow, Pastor Hernandez. I will be praying for your family and for the family of Ms. Gonzalez Linares. Such a sad situation for both of the families :(

  • esteryates69 Jul 16, 2012

    My prayer are to with these family.Have gone thought the death of our first born when he was 22 years old in 1982,from a car accident.Time was what we need to forgive the driver,most all we did.

  • Jadeelizabeth Jul 16, 2012

    My prayers go out to both families!

  • tarheelforlife2 Jul 16, 2012

    come back, Job. please

  • redwarrior Jul 16, 2012

    Also having lost a child in a car crash, I can say that the ability to forgive just came. It isn't something that I, or my family, had to consider.... forgiveness was just there. Had I thought before this, that I was capable of such forgiveness? No. But until you stand where I stood, where these families now stand, you will never truly comprehend any of their feelings.

    I am very sorry for their losses.. and for the continued struggle. It will always be there....

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