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Victim in I-440 wrong-way crash was 'wonderful son'

Posted December 22, 2015

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— Family members are holding onto their memories of a man who was killed in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 440 Tuesday morning.

Alejandro Mendez Gonzales' family is still trying to process a death that they said could have been avoided.

According to investigators, Mendez Gonzales, 21, was driving a 2002 Honda sedan when he was hit by Jesus Leon Galera, 34, who was driving a 2008 Ford sedan that was traveling east in the westbound lanes of I-440.

Mendez Gonzales and Galera were both killed. Officials said both men were the sole occupants in each vehicle.

Investigators believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.

A 911 caller spotted Galera driving the wrong way near Six Forks Road, miles before the crash, and said other drivers were flashing their lights to get his attention. A criminal record search found that Galera had a prior DWI arrest in Wake County in 2003 and was convicted on the charge.

Family members said Mendez Gonzalez worked two jobs and was an artist.

"He was always nice. He was always a calm person, never had any conflict with anyone. He was really smart too," said cousin Antonia Mendez.

Before the Tuesday morning accident, family members said Mendez Gonzales was out enjoying life.

"He was having a good time for Christmas Eve at a Christmas party at his job," said Mendez.

Mendez said it is hard to say goodbye to his cousin, who he described as a friend he will never forget.

"We gave each other company and gladness and just had a good time," he said.

Mendez Gonzales' father described the 21-year-old as a wonderful son who took time to drive from Raleigh to Wilson to see his younger siblings.

A GoFundMe page was set up to help the Mendez family with funeral expenses.

Westbound traffic on I-440 was diverted onto New Bern Avenue following the collision but reopened around 5 a.m.

16 Comments

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  • Craig Elliott Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    "The story and pictures changed yet WRAL kept the comments from the original story." -BETSY SMITH

    SOP for WRAL.

    I'm not convinced they have any darker motives besides generating traffic on their website, but it doesn't seem honest to change a story after it has been published.

    I guess they own the playing field so they get to choose the rules...

  • Betsy Smith Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    The story and pictures changed yet WRAL kept the comments from the original story. Clearly they want conflict. Thoughts and prayers to the family. For those complaining about the comments "Investigators believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.". Plenty of Americans drive drunk, but anyone not aware of the large number of hispanic names involved in wrong way crashes isn't paying attention.

  • Craig Elliott Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    Traffic spikes would do the job, but think of it: say, $25K per installation - $50K+min. if you want to allow a remote override for emergency services- multiplied by X thousands of ramps in NC alone- all to compensate for unlicensed, unaware or impaired drivers. I'd rather spend the money on signage (i.e. directional arrows painted on ramps), enforcement, education etc.

  • Jj Parker Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    It happens more than the news reports. Usually not to the level of this where lives were lost but if a system like this (or similar) were in place. We would all be a little bit safer.

  • Chase Truman Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    +1

  • Chase Truman Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread



    +1

  • Sarah McDowell-Smith Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    JJ Parker....that is an awesome idea. You hear of this happening way too often.

  • Jj Parker Dec 23, 2015
    user avatar

    I think the DOT needs to look into installing one way tire spikes on the ramps. Like you see in parking decks and such.

    They deflate the tires when you drive over them going the wrong way. Certain
    Emergency vehicles can control lights at intersections.

    Maybe the same can be integrated into the tire spikes when 1st responders need to use those ramps to speed up response times.

  • LetsBeFair Dec 23, 2015

    darn, sounds like a good guy. Hope that family gets through this without more upsetting news.

  • Lamario Kelly Dec 22, 2015
    user avatar

    Smh...some of the comments, what has America become...RIP both families...

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