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Driver Charged With DWI in Fatal I-40 Wreck

The driver of an SUV that veered across a highway median and slammed into two cars, killing one person, was charged Monday afternoon with drunken driving, authorities said.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The driver of an SUV that veered across a highway median and slammed into two cars, killing a Cary man, was charged Monday afternoon with drunken driving, authorities said.

A Chevrolet Tahoe traveling east on Interstate 40 at about 7:15 a.m. Monday crossed the median onto westbound I-40 near the Wade Avenue exit, striking a blue Kia, according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. The driver of the Kia, George Alwyn Smith, 54, died in the wreck, authorities said.

The Tahoe then crossed a second westbound lane and struck a Ford Mustang driven by Carolyn Hageman, 35, of Apex, authorities said. She was taken to Western Wake Hospital with minor injuries.

Smith was on his way to work as a computer programmer at Duke University when he was hit, authorities said.

His friends and relatives struggled Monday to cope with the loss of a man they described as an avid gardener with an infectious laugh and a caring nature.

"He just touched lives. That's the kind of person he was. He was a shoulder to cry on. He was somebody to laugh with -- just an amazing person," longtime friend Gia Wright said. "He was such a good friend to my mother. One of the memories I'll always have of him was him showing up with flowers for her all the time, just freshly cut from the garden, just because."

According to a Highway Patrol accident reconstruction team, tire ruts left in the median by the Tahoe suggest the vehicle was going so fast that the driver lost control and the vehicle slid sideways into the oncoming traffic.

The driver of the Tahoe was taken to WakeMed, but the extent of his injuries was unknown Monday afternoon.

"The driver of the Tahoe is a Hispanic male. We believe alcohol was involved," said Sgt. Margaret Landon of the Highway Patrol, noting the man smelled of alcohol.

Troopers didn't release the man's blood-alcohol content Monday.

The man had a North Carolina driver's license with his picture on it, but he told troopers that the name wasn't his.

The passenger in the Tahoe, who was taken to WakeMed with non-life-threatening injuries, had a Mexican identification card with his own picture and the same, apparently fictitious name from the driver's ID, authorities said.

Federal immigration officers are investigating the status of both men, who troopers said left Concord early Monday and were on their way to work.

Troopers have charged the driver of the Tahoe with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and once count each of felony death by motor vehicle,driving while impaired, reckless driving and having no operator's license.

"To think that it is OK to (drink and drive), it doesn't matter if you're illegal, if you're visiting or if you've been born and raised here, drunk driving, there's no excuse for it. It's just another precious, valuable life that's been taken away," Wright said. "How many people have to die before somebody gets it?"

Westbound traffic on I-40 was detoured throughout the morning onto Wade Avenue, across the ramp back to I-40.


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