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'He had a huge heart.' Family devastated after Duke employee killed in Durham crash

Posted August 4, 2021 5:42 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2021 12:50 p.m. EDT

— The family of a 26-year-old man killed in a crash along the Durham Freeway on Tuesday said they are struggling, devastated and crushed by the sudden loss.

Daniel Joseph Watt, 26, who was sitting in the backseat of the vehicle that Gregory Allan Coley, 41, struck, was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. He was not wearing a seatbelt, according to officials. Watt was a residence coordinator in Student Affairs who began his career at Duke University in July 2019.

His family is trying to comprehend the loss when they said he had so much life ahead of him.

"Daniel was one of the most unselfish people I know. He was kind; he had a huge heart. When stuff like this happens, it was Daniel you could call to help comfort you and to talk through things. He was well respected in his communities," said his brother Eugene Watt.

Duke released the following statement about Watt's death:

Daniel had been an integral and steady presence for many community members at Duke in the past year. He was a well-loved and vibrant part of the HRL team, and he will be missed by many students, colleagues and friends across campus. A warm, engaging, and wry spirit, Daniel played an invaluable role supporting the HRL team, residents, and colleague- a leader who quietly transformed others’ lives on a daily basis.

Eugene Watt's said his brother was returning from visiting their mother in Florida when the crash happened.

A North Carolina State Highway Patrol Trooper said Coley was speeding in a Mercedes Benz when he struck the back of a vehicle, causing it to hit a guardrail in the median. The Mercedes overturned, injuring Coley, who was taken to the hospital.

Alex Marroquia, 26, who told the Highway Patrol that he is a rideshare driver, was also injured and taken to Duke Medical by ambulance. Marroquia also drove for Lyft, and was working for them at the time of crash.

Lyft which issued this statement:

"We are heartbroken by this tragic incident. Our hearts are with the rider's family during this incredibly difficult time, and we've attempted to reach out to them as well as the driver to offer our support. We stand ready to assist law enforcement however we can."

The crash happened just after 1 a.m. near the Ellis Road exit. Alcohol and speed are believed to be causative factors in this collision. Officials say charges are forthcoming.

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