On October 25, 2007 Bettie Coates, 42, was headed home from work on eastbound I-540 near Raleigh, NC when she was hit by drunk driving illegal alien Eblin Fabiel Ocampo Cruz, going the wrong way on the freeway.
"I was like, 'Oh my God. 'That's a car,'" Coates said, noting that the other driver flicked on his lights a split-second before the collision. "I didn't see him. I couldn't turn. I didn't have time to react. I didn't have time to do anything."
Coate, a resident of Wake County, NC, was trapped inside her Ford Mustang, which was crushed in the collision. "I just remember a lot of blood just running down my face," she said. The wreck shattered her thigh and ankle bones, and she underwent three surgeries during 29 days in WakeMed hospital. She has now moved in with her grandparents in Northampton County for a few months while she recuperates.
Cruz, 22, was been charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, driving while impaired, reckless driving, failure to reduce speed and possession of a revoked license in connection with the wreck.
At the time of the wreck, Cruz was on probation for several offenses. In February 2006, Cruz was convicted in Durham of DWI. A month later, he was convicted of misdemeanor unauthorized use of a vehicle and misdemeanor breaking and entering. In May 2006, he pleaded guilty to reckless driving and passing an emergency vehicle. Last October, he was charged with resisting an officer, and he was charged with possession of stolen goods in December.
Cruz was wanted by the Department of Correction for probation violations, and had been listed, as of Oct. 8, as an absconder. "He had not reported to his probation officer and was not complying with the terms of his probation," said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Correction. "In fact, we lost track of him. We didn't know where he was and had a warrant out for his arrest."
"We're dealing with a person who's got some serious issues going on," Lt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the state Highway Patrol, said.
Officials said they believe he may also be behind some more serious crimes. Cruz went by several names, and one of those aliases is wanted for second-degree kidnapping and assault on a female in Orange County.
"It's putting people in danger," Clendenin said.
Authorities said Cruz is in the country illegally. Agents with the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Cruz, a native of Honduras, was charged in 2000 with being an alien in the U.S. and was ordered to be deported two years later. Because he didn't leave the country, he has been considered a fugitive, authorities said.
25OCT07, WRAL Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville
Wrong-Way Driver Causes I-540 Crash
26OCT07, WRAL Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville
Driver Charged in I540 Wrong-Way Crash
31OCT07, WRAL Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville
Man Charged in Wrong-Way Wreck in U.S. Illegally
6NOV07, WRAL Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville
Illegal Immigrant Released From Hospital After I-540 Wreck
28NOV07, WRAL, NC
Woman Injured in Wrong-Way Wreck Angry, Thankful, by Erin Coleman