Local News

Wrong-way driver identified in fatal Nash County crash

Posted July 6, 2011 5:21 a.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2011 3:03 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina State Highway Patrol on Wednesday released details of Tuesday's Nash County crash that killed two people, including the identity of one driver and troopers' response to the wreck.

Germain Alexander Granados Gomez was driving a Honda Accord the wrong way on U.S. Highway 64 East, near Frazier Road, at about 100 mph and crashed into a Chevrolet Cobalt carrying three teenage girls and going 70 mph.

Gomez, 34, a permanent, legal U.S. resident who lived in Farifax, Va., and Brianna McLaughlin, 17, who was in the back seat of the Cobalt, died. Paige Ashley Toelke, 17, of Nashville, and Leigh Anderson Bulluck, 17, of Rocky Mount, were seriously injured.

Based on physical evidence, troopers initially suspected that both Gomez and Toelke, who was driving the Cobalt, had been drinking and that alcohol was a factor in the wreck.

Troopers said they also found prescriptions for a strong painkiller and an anti-nausea medicine in Gomez's car and were investigating if they too played a role. 

The Highway Patrol is still investigating the wreck and a final report is pending.  

Family members of Toelke and Bulluck released a statement through WakeMed Hospital on Thursday saying the girls did not have alcohol in their systems at the time of the wreck.

"We would like to clearly state that neither Paige nor Leigh An had alcohol in their systems at the time of the accident, as proven by the negative (0.0) blood alcohol tests administered when they arrived at the WakeMed Trauma Center," the statement read.

Gomez was convicted of misdemeanor driving while impaired last August in Fairfax County, Va., and served five days in jail, court officials said.

McLaughlin was not wearing a seat belt, while the others involved in the wreck were wearing theirs.

Multiple motorists called 911 to report that Gomez's Honda was going the wrong way. One caller said that she had followed him from the other side of the highway for almost 12 miles between her first and second 911 calls.

Two troopers were working overnight to cover Nash and Edgecombe counties, and both were already responding to calls when the first call about the wrong-way driver came in, authorities said Wednesday.

One trooper was three miles behind the wrong-way driver when the wreck occurred and arrived at the scene two minutes later, a representative of the Highway Patrol said. The second trooper arrived three minutes later.

Toelke, a rising senior at Northern Nash High School, was in serious condition, and Bulluck, a rising senior at Rocky Mount Academy, in fair condition at WakeMed in Raleigh Wednesday.

Bulluck became sleepy while driving and switched with Toelke, relatives said. 

McLaughlin's parents said the girls had left a friend's house and were supposed to be staying at either Bulluck's or Toelke's house.

Authorities said that Toelke had her full provisional license and was allowed to have passengers.