Wrong-way crash kills two

Brianna McLaughlin was killed when the car she was a passenger in was hit by a wrong-way driver Tuesday. (Image courtesy McLaughlin family)

July 6, 2011 4:33:01 PM PDT
The North Carolina Highway Patrol says two people are dead after a driver headed the wrong way on a highway slammed into a car carrying teenagers.

Sergeant W.B. Finch told ABC11 that it happened on U.S. 64 in Nash County east of Spring Hope.

Finch said at 1:54 a.m. Tuesday morning, the NCHP was called about a man driving a 1989 Honda westbound in the eastbound lanes of Highway 64, heading away from Interstate 95.

Click here to listen to the 911 calls

Two troopers attempted to get to the man, but before they could stop him, the Honda crashed into an eastbound 2008 Chevrolet passenger car carrying three 17-year-old girls near Frazier Road.

Brianna McLaughlin, of Rocky Mount, was sitting in the back seat of the Chevrolet and was declared dead at the scene. Investigators said she was not wearing a seatbelt.

The Chevrolet's driver, Paige Toelke, of Nashville, and front seat passenger, Leigh Bulluck, of Rocky Mount, were both taken to WakeMed with serious injuries. Bulluck was listed in fair condition Wednesday. Toelke was in serious.

Troopers identified the wrong-way driver as 34 year old Germain Alexander Granados Gomez of 4242 Allison Circle, Fairfax, Virginia on Wednesday.

The Highway Patrol said investigators suspect the drivers of both cars had been drinking before the crash.

No charges have been filed against Toelke and troopers said a consultation with the district attorney was would be held before deciding how to proceed.

Facebook messages for crash victims

Friends of the teenage crash victims took to the Facebook website Wednesday to express their shock at what happened.

Click here to see the memorial page for Brianna McLaughlin

"Brianna you will live on in my heart," wrote one friend.

Leigh Bulluck also posted on a Facebook get-well page set up for Paige Toelke.

"I love you Paige and I am trying my best to see you! I feel that together, we can help each other towards the path of recovery!" she wrote.

Friends from Northern Nash High School, where McLaughlin was a rising senior, said they were struggling to make sense of the tragedy.

"This was going to be her last year of high school and I just could not believe it," said Kelsey Sweet.

Budget cuts slowed response?

The North Carolina Highway Patrol said Wednesday that its officers did their best to get to Gomez before he hit anyone, but it took 12 minutes. Sgt. Jeff Gordon said there are only two troopers assigned to Nash County at the moment thanks to budget cuts.

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