Driver will face charges in fiery I-40 wreck, troopers say

Posted January 27, 2009
Updated January 29, 2009

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— The driver of an SUV who investigators believe triggered Monday night's fiery, five-vehicle wreck on Interstate 40 will face criminal charges after he is released from the hospital, Trooper Beckley Vaughan of the Highway Patrol said.

Troopers investigating the wreck say Osmar Guillermo Perez Vicente, 28, caused it when he cut across multiple lanes to try to exit onto Wade Avenue.

Vicente was listed in good condition at WakeMed Thursday. Vaughan said that after Vicente is released from the hospital, he will face charges of careless and reckless driving and operating without a license.

Vaughan said troopers also intend to investigate whether Vicente is in the United States legally. Vicente does not speak English and told investigators, via a translator, that he has been in the U.S. looking for work for two years.

The wreck closed down I-40 in both directions Monday evening.

Witnesses said Vicente, driving an Isuzu SUV, swerved across lanes, clipping a tractor-trailer, which lost control and rolled into the treeline.

The Isuzu then came back into eastbound lanes and hit a minivan, tossing it into a garbage truck.

The driver of the garbage truck lost control of his vehicle, which crossed the center median and hit a Dodge Charger in the westbound lanes, troopers said. The garbage truck ran off the road and overturned, spilling refuse along the shoulder.

The truck caught fire and set the driver's clothes ablaze, and flames spread to the debris on the highway and into the adjoining woods.

The driver of the garbage truck, Robert Jay Leffer, 48, from Sanford, was taken to the Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He was listed in critical condition Wednesday morning with extensive burns.

The other people involved in the wreck had minor injures and were not hospitalized. 


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  • bbsbeaching Jan 29, 2009

    my prayers are with the burn victim. the charges against vincente will never equal what he did to this man, the family members who will have to care for him, and the other victims of this mess. as for driving without a license or insurance-how many others do you think are driving around with the same disregard for the law?

  • WRALSUCKS Jan 29, 2009

    By the time this is all done, hospital bills paid for, unemployment insurance paid, cars repaired, (to say nothing about pain and suffering) this illegal will have cost us all in the million dollar range. That's ONE illegal.

    So, spare me the stories about how much "illegals" benefit our society. They are a DRAIN on our society.

    Note I did not say "Mexicans" or "Hispanics", just ILLEGALS.

  • whatusay Jan 29, 2009

    Why is Perdue not getting involved with the illegal problem in NC. Doesn't she care what is happening to our state, and what the citizens of NC think about her silence on this issue? Is she affraid she will run some manufacturing companies out of NC if she cracks down on the illegals? Is that why all of our representatives are so affraid of? Don't they see what is happening? We are falling deeper and deeper each day that this issue is not addressed. This is a silent but deadly cause that is being ignored.

  • BigUNCFan Jan 29, 2009

    There is so much of this story that does not surprise me.

  • agentm Jan 29, 2009

    it is a big problem on the highways ...people do not pay attetion at all .....and i am ready for them to ban phones while driving .....just people these days are not careful.. i know yesterday on the wway back home some fool cut me off on 40 and we all had to hit the brakes hard ......

  • Even Jan 28, 2009

    This goes hand in hand with the state's budget crisis. People that don't belong here have jobs, don't pay taxes and use a great deal of the state's resources. Free medical care, free schooling, etc. I am for immigration, but legally. Our new governor promised during the campaign to properly address the immigration situation and enforce the laws. This would go a long way in balancing the budget.

  • Diva RN Jan 28, 2009

    What have we learned? Nothing apparently. This morning I was coming home from work and pretty much the same thing happened, except the driver decided they did NOT want the Wade Ave. exit so they put on their turn signal about a split second before they cut me off to get back on 40. I had to hit my brakes going 60-65 and it scared me. And not to profile, but they did not look like an illegal immigrant if I had to guess. It's been said here before, but the problem is people wanting to drive as fast as they can in the left lane for as long as possible even when they KNOW their exit is coming up, or not wanting to double back if they miss their exit or take the wrong one. It's especially bad at exits 287 and 289, and IMO, causes a lot of the back-up during rush hour because people are trying to change lanes at the last possible second.

  • news4u Jan 28, 2009

    Ask the poor burned truck driver and the other injured drivers what should be done about the illegals on the roads.

    Praying for them.

  • FromClayton Jan 28, 2009

    claykimrey - great suggustions, but instead of putting them in jail charge them a huge fine. say $2,000 per illegal. That way we dont have to crowd up our jails, but might can recover some of them money illigals are draining from our society. Seeeeeee we work well as a team!

  • Unaffiliated Patriot Jan 28, 2009

    Start solving most of the problem by putting everyone who hires an illegal in jail, whether it be simply mowing your grass or cleaning your house. When the money dries up, they will leave. They do not desire to be citizens. They are simply here to take the salary and get freebees (benefits) paid for by those of us who pay taxes and pay our own way . Why do we elect and REELECT politicians who refuse to comply with and enforce the law. We have no one to blame but ourselves unless we elct and hire officials who respect the law.