Victim in I-440 wrong-way crash was 'wonderful son'
Posted December 22, 2015 5:25 a.m. EST
Updated December 22, 2015 10:12 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Family members are holding onto their memories of a man who was killed in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 440 Tuesday morning.
Alejandro Mendez Gonzales' family is still trying to process a death that they said could have been avoided.
According to investigators, Mendez Gonzales, 21, was driving a 2002 Honda sedan when he was hit by Jesus Leon Galera, 34, who was driving a 2008 Ford sedan that was traveling east in the westbound lanes of I-440.
Mendez Gonzales and Galera were both killed. Officials said both men were the sole occupants in each vehicle.
Investigators believe alcohol was a factor in the crash.
A 911 caller spotted Galera driving the wrong way near Six Forks Road, miles before the crash, and said other drivers were flashing their lights to get his attention. A criminal record search found that Galera had a prior DWI arrest in Wake County in 2003 and was convicted on the charge.
Family members said Mendez Gonzalez worked two jobs and was an artist.
"He was always nice. He was always a calm person, never had any conflict with anyone. He was really smart too," said cousin Antonia Mendez.
Before the Tuesday morning accident, family members said Mendez Gonzales was out enjoying life.
"He was having a good time for Christmas Eve at a Christmas party at his job," said Mendez.
Mendez said it is hard to say goodbye to his cousin, who he described as a friend he will never forget.
"We gave each other company and gladness and just had a good time," he said.
Mendez Gonzales' father described the 21-year-old as a wonderful son who took time to drive from Raleigh to Wilson to see his younger siblings.
A GoFundMe page was set up to help the Mendez family with funeral expenses.
Westbound traffic on I-440 was diverted onto New Bern Avenue following the collision but reopened around 5 a.m.