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Police were looking for wrong-way driver before fatal collision

Raleigh police had been looking for a car traveling in the wrong direction on Interstate 40 Sunday morning, minutes before the driver collided with a truck, killing herself, and another and critically injuring the other driver.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh police had been looking for a car traveling in the wrong direction on Interstate 40 Sunday morning minutes before the driver collided with a minivan, killing herself and a passenger in the van and critically injuring the van's driver.

A woman called 911 at 2:18 a.m. to report seeing the Toyota sedan traveling east in the left westbound lane near South Saunders Street.

"… Unless I'm totally seeing things, but I'm pretty sure I saw that," the caller told the emergency dispatcher.

Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said that officers on patrol were immediately notified to be on the lookout for the car.

By 2:23 a.m., it was too late.

Another motorist called 911 reporting a wreck near Jones Sausage Road, about 5 miles away.

"There is a terrible wreck right in the middle of Highway 40," the caller said. "The car's on its side, and I don’t know if anybody's in the cars or not."

Police say they aren't sure yet why Carolina Elizabeth Gonzalez Linares, 28, of Morrisville, was going about 65 mph when she collided head-on with a minivan driven by Natanael Bartoleme Hernandez, who was on his way home from visiting his girlfriend in Jacksonville.

Linares died. The results of alcohol tests are pending, police said.

Hernandez was critically injured, and his brother – Job Misrael Hernandez, 17 – also died.

Natanael Hernandez's uncle, Kris Ramsundar, said the 21-year-old was in a medically induced coma because of a brain injury. He also suffered broken bones and internal injuries.

"It's been horrible dealing with not just an accident and an injured child," Ramsundar said. "There's also a dead child, so it's been very, very tough for this family to deal with."

Ramsundar said the brothers were inseparable.

Job Hernandez was a rising junior year at Enloe High School, where he was on both the track and football teams.

He was a talented musician who taught himself to play the piano, his uncle said. Both brothers were in a band with their third brother, Lemuel Hernandez.

Their parents are pastors of a Spanish-speaking congregation, called Santuario, at Milner Memorial Presbyterian Church.

Ramsundar said their father, Elbis Hernandez, said that, while there is grief in his heart, there's no anger toward Linares.

"He said, 'I would like the community to know, I won't harbor any hard feelings, and my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.’”

Ramsundar said that they are a family of faith, and that's what's helping them to cope with their loss.

"We know our life here is just a stepping stone," he said. "Too often, we tend to hold on to what we have here and not follow God's will."

A funeral fund has been established to help the Hernandez family with funeral expenses. Donations can be made to Hernandez-Carattini Funeral Fund, c/o Santuario at Milner Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 14003, Raleigh N.C. 27620.

Job Hernandez's funeral is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Comunidad Cristiana Hosanna, at 204 Sheldon Drive in Raleigh. A visitation is planned prior to the funeral, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

A private burial is planned for Thursday.


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