Local News

Driver Charged in I-540 Wrong-Way Crash

Posted October 26, 2007

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— Court records show that a Durham man who is accused of going the wrong way on Interstate 540 Thursday morning was convicted of driving while impaired in 2006 – at the first of at least five appearances in court that year.

Authorities on Friday charged Eblin Fabiel Ocampo Cruz, 22, of U.S. Highway 70 West, with one count each of DWI, reckless driving, failure to reduce speed and possession of a revoked license. He also faces charges involving driving the wrong way on the highway.

"We're dealing with a person who's got some serious issues going on," Lt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the state Highway Patrol, said.

Authorities said Cruz was driving westbound on eastbound I-540 between Creedmoor and Six Forks roads around 2:45 a.m. when he collided head-on with a Ford Mustang.

Both drivers had to be removed from their vehicles and remained hospitalized on Friday evening. The driver of the other vehicle, Bettie Coates, 42, of Wake County, was listed in serious condition Friday afternoon, troopers said.

Cruz was wanted by the Department of Correction for probation violations, and had been listed, as of Oct. 8, as an absconder.

"He had not reported to his probation officer and was not complying with the terms of his probation," said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Correction. "In fact, we lost track of him. We didn't know where he was and had a warrant out for his arrest."

Court records show Cruz was on probation for several different offenses. In February 2006, he was convicted in Durham of DWI. A month later, he was convicted of misdemeanor unauthorized use of a vehicle and misdemeanor breaking and entering. In May 2006, Cruz pleaded pleaded guilty to reckless driving and passing an emergency vehicle.

"That's why he shouldn't be out on the highway. He should be behind bars, from what I'm hearing," Clendenin said.

Charges continued to follow Cruz: resisting an officer in October 2006 and possession of stolen goods in December 2006.

Officials said they belive he may also be behind some more serious crimes. Cruz went by several names, and one of those aliases is wanted for second-degree kidnapping and assault on a female in Orange County.

"It's putting people in danger," Clendenin said.

Immigration agents said they are investigating the status of Cruz, who was born in Honduras.

Troopers said they will be waiting when Cruz is released from the hospital, where he is being treated for internal bleeding and a fractured leg.

"He's being monitored, and when it comes time for him to be released, there will be a trooper there to take custody of him," Clendenin said.