Local News

Driver charged in fiery I-40 wreck

Posted January 30, 2009 10:32 p.m. EST
Updated February 1, 2009 5:01 p.m. EST

— An SUV driver who investigators believe triggered a fiery, five-vehicle wreck on Interstate 40 this week appeared before the magistrate Friday evening.

Osmar Guillermo Perez Vicente, 28, was charged with operating without a license and driving without due caution. He was being held in the Wake County Jail Sunday evening under a $2,000 bond.

Robert Jay Leffer, 48, of Sanford – a garbage-truck driver injured in the wreck – was listed in critical but stable condition at the Jaycees Burn Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill Sunday evening.

Troopers said Vicente cut across multiple lanes trying to get to the Wade Avenue exit Monday night, and his SUV clipped a tractor-trailer, causing Vicente to lose control of the vehicle. The SUV rolled into the treeline but came back into eastbound lanes and hit a minivan, tossing it into a garbage truck.

Leffer lost control of the garbage truck, which crossed the center median and hit a Dodge Charger in the westbound lanes, troopers said. The garbage truck ran off the road and overturned, spilling refuse along the shoulder.

The truck caught fire and set Leffer's clothes ablaze, and flames spread to the debris on the highway and into the adjoining woods. A passing motorist, Clay Roberson, pulled Leffer out of the truck, and firefighters spent hours putting out the fire along the highway.

Highway Patrol Trooper Beckley Vaughan said troopers also intend to investigate whether Vicente is in the United States legally. Vicente does not speak English and told investigators, via a translator, that he has been in the U.S. looking for work for two years.