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Raleigh man has new perspective on life after I-40 tragedy

Posted August 21, 2012
Updated August 22, 2012

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— A Raleigh man critically injured in a collision on Interstate 40 says he's determined to live his second chance at life with meaning – the way his brother, who was killed in the wreck, did.

"I'm not going to live the way I used to – just day by day, doing whatever," Natanael Hernandez said Tuesday at WakeMed in Raleigh, where he's still recovering from the July 15 accident. "I'm going to live each day with purpose."

The 21-year-old was driving home from Jacksonville with his brother, Job, when, police say, Carolina Elizabeth Gonzalez Linares, 28, of Morrisville, slammed into their minivan head-on, at 65 mph, near the Jones Sausage Road exit.

A toxicology report showed Linares had a blood alcohol level of 0.25, more than three times the level at which drivers are considered impaired under North Carolina law.

Raleigh police had been looking for her after receiving 911 calls about a car traveling east in the westbound lanes of I-40.

Linares and 17-year-old Job died at the scene.

Hernandez suffered a severe brain injury and was in a medically induced coma to help with his healing.

After seven surgeries, his broken bones are healing, and he's become a star in rehab. Two weeks ago, he had trouble talking and remembering, and now, he's speaking again in full sentences.

"I’m feeling good, being motivated, just waiting to get out of here," he said. Natanael Hernandez Raleigh man has new perspective on life after I-40 tragedy

Losing his younger brother, Hernandez says, has changed his perspective on life and has inspired him to live as Job had lived.

The Enloe High School junior was on the track and football teams and was a talented musician who taught himself to play the piano.

"His passion, his drive – that boy always had a future ahead of him," Hernandez said. "He had such great drive. I was the opposite. I just went through the days. Now, I’m going to live my life the way he did."

Hernandez says he wants to take classes at Wake Technical Community College and get a degree in computer engineering.

In the meantime, he is trying to remain upbeat and positive about his recovery while, at the same time, learning to cope with life without his younger brother.

"I loved him. I would have done anything for that boy," Hernandez said. "(I) cry every now and then, but it's OK. Tears are natural."


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  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter Aug 22, 2012

    May God continue to heal his wounds, his heart, and bless him with a full recovery!

  • YeaOh Aug 22, 2012

    If he had been killed by a gun the cry to outlaw guns would be deafening. Yet 10,000+ people a year are killed due to drunk driving and over 300,000+ suffer injuries. This is a much higher statistic than guns. Where's the anger folks, where's the righteous indignation? Pffft!

  • loveapex Aug 22, 2012

    Definitely an inspiring young man. I hate that his brother was lost at such a young age and terrible accident. I despise people who drink and drive! Do what you will to yourself...leave the innocent alone.

  • LocalYokel Aug 22, 2012

    A real tear-jerker story and this tragedy can happen to you too if you drive on our roads. There will always be freak accidents but our traffic safety has been deteriorating for years because of increasing numbers of bad drivers and lack of law enforcement.

    There will be and increasing number of stories like this if law enforcement doesn't begin to take action against bad drivers.

  • BeBe924 Aug 22, 2012

    Tears are not only natural, they can be healing to the soul as well. Love this young man's positive attitude in the face of tragedy. Many prayers going out to him and his family.

  • dirkdiggler Aug 21, 2012

    What an amazing man this guy is. May his recovery continue to go smoothly, and may he remain strong in the face of this horrible, senseless tragedy.

  • westernwake1 Aug 21, 2012

    Despite the tragedy that brought Hernandez to this point, he has an inspiring outlook. Kudos for him and best wishes for his future success.

  • OpenM1nd Aug 21, 2012

    "Hernandez says he wants to take classes at Wake Technical Community College and get a degree in *computer engineering*."

    Awesome! And I love it whenever a person courageously and enthusiastically looks forward to the future in spite of any kind of hardship or adversity.

    Natanael, if you're watching, let me know if you ever need any help with your studies.