Local News

Woman Injured in Wrong-Way Wreck Angry Over Driver’s Sentence

Bettie Coates, who survived a head-on collision on Interstate 540, says she is angry over the prison sentence given to the drunk driver who slammed into her.

Posted Updated
Switch to classic wral.com

RALEIGH, N.C. — A woman injured in a head-on crash on Interstate 540 said she is angry over the prison sentence given to the driver who slammed into her.

Bettie Coates, 42, was headed home from work early on Oct. 25 when her Ford Mustang was hit head-on by a drunk driver on eastbound I-540 between Creedmoor and Six Forks roads.

“It's been hard because before the car accident, I was very active,” she said.

After six surgeries and extensive physical therapy, Coates finally learned to walk again a month ago.

“I'm still recovering. My life will never be the same. I have rods and pins and all kinds of things throughout my entire body,” Coates said.

Eblin Fabiel Ocampo Cruz, 22, of U.S. Highway 70 West, was convicted of driving while impaired, reckless driving, failure to reduce speed and possession of a revoked license.

Coates said that while she has undergone months of pain and suffering, Cruz was sentenced this week to two years in prison. She said that is a small price to pay for what he did to her.

“I'm very angry at the sentence. I really am," Coates said.

The sentence was not part of a plea deal; it was up to a judge. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Cruz received the highest possible sentence under state guidelines.

Coates said she believes the law needs to be changed.

“I think what's happening is they're going in and they're getting a slight sentence, just a slap on the wrist and they get back out and they do the same thing all over again,” she added.

Coates said that until the laws change, tragedies like hers will continue to happen.

“It's just often that you turn the television on and you see where someone has died or someone has been hit by a drunk driver,” she said.

Court records show that Cruz was also convicted of a DWI in 2006 – his first of at least five appearances in court that year.

Cruz is an illegal immigrant. After he serves his sentence, he will be turned over to federal authorities, who will begin the deportation process.