Local News

7 Injured in Durham Crash

Posted July 11, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Seven people were injured in a single-vehicle accident in Durham late Sunday morning.

A van heading eastbound on I-40 blew a tire near the NC 751 interchange. The vehicle rolled and landed in the median.

Two people were airlifted to a local hospital.

When Durham police arrived on the scene, they faced a familiar challenge: to begin their investigation, they had to break the language barrier.

"I try and help her, I tried to help everybody, I saw them all here on the floor and I go a little here, a little there."

Miguel Perez's wife and uncle were taken by helicopter to Duke. A third victim was rushed in by ambulance, injured too seriously to wait for the helicopter to return.

Just moments earlier, a blown tire sent the van spinning out of control, with seven of Perez's friends and relatives inside.

Officers said the driver lost control of the van as he was swerving to the left and fishtailing. The vehicle flipped twice before landing.

The van belonged to one of the victims, who uses it in his Durham construction business.

Today it had been filled with friends and relatives driving from Carrboro to Raleigh. The wreck put Durham police officers in a familiar bind: trying to interview witnesses who don't speak English.

Durham cops now carry translation guides, but as the city's Hispanic population grows, so do the number of dialects residents speak.

Perez is fluent enough to explain how this accident happened. Durham cops aren't always so lucky.

They try to find out if there's anyone on hand who speaks English. If not, they do the best they can.

Durham police say the most serious injuries were to the five people in the back of the van. Some were sitting in seats that weren't even bolted to the floor, and everyone was thrown from the vehicle.