On Sunday, March 4, 2007, Dwane Braswell, 35, and his 9-year-old son, Jerry, of Clayton, NC were driving in a big rig when a car ran a stop sign and darted out in front of them. Braswell swerved to avoid it, but his cab rolled over and burst into flames, killing the father and son.
The two victims were burned beyond recognition in the fiery crash.
The driver that caused the Johnston County, NC accident, illegal alien Luciano Tellez, fled on foot but was subsequently arrested and placed in the Johnston County Jail. Two passengers in the car remained at the scene and told authorities what happened. The two passengers suffered minor injuries but weren't taken to a hospital, authorities said.
Some nearby residents said they thought the truck driver swerved in an effort to avoid direct impact.
"In this case, it seems that he sacrificed his own life to try to save somebody in that car that he didn't even know," said Shaw Fish, who lives near the crash scene.
Luciano Tellez, 31, of Angier, who is also known as Tellez Diaz, was charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle, felony hit-and-run, running a stop sign and driving with a suspended license.
Tellez, 31, had twice been convicted of drunken driving in North Carolina, in 2002 in Wake County and 2005 in Raleigh. In addition, Wake County officials had issued a warrant for his arrest for a probation violation stemming from his 2005 DWI conviction. Authorities said as a result of his conviction for drunken driving in 2005 he had a suspended license. Alcohol was considered to be a factor in he crash, although Tellez was not charged with DWI, due to his fleeing the scenes of the wreck.
Sgt. M.J. Rivenbark of the N.C. Highway Patrol said many motorists are arrested for DWI after they have already lost their license.
"It happens more often than people really realize," he said. "Of course if they have tougher laws it would deter some of it, but it's still not going to keep people from driving."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed a detainer on Tellez after it learned he was in the country illegally, said Tom O'Connell, resident agent-in-charge of the federal agency's Cary office. Despite the prior convictions, Tellez had not come to ICE's attention. Had immigration officials known of Tellez's previous legal troubles, it may not have been enough to have him deported, O'Connell said.
Raleigh police weren't required to inform immigration officials of Tellez' prior arrest because he was charged only with a misdemeanor and had a valid driver's license, said Jim Sughrue, spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department.
Braswell is survived by his wife and a 12-year-old daughter.
Having a repeat DWI, illegal alien offender has some questioning why he was allowed back on the streets.
One lawmaker wants to make sure all county jails are screening inmates for their immigration status, a job that is usually the responsibility of the federal government. "We need to have a way to identify a person in jail if he's legal or not, that's just obvious," said Harris Blake of Pinehurst.
A family member of the victims wants people to remember a father and his son. The crash is highlighting a touchy debate about illegal immigrants, the jails and what local law enforcement should be doing about it.
Documentation:5MAR07, WRAL Raleigh-Durham-Fayettville
Man Charged With Death-by-Vehicle in Johnston Crash, by Mike Charbonneau
6MAR07, WRAL Raleigh-Durham-Fayettville
Illegal Immigrant Charged With Manslaughter in Fatal Hit-and-Run
7MAR07, ABC 11 News Raleigh
Fatal DWI Involves Illegal Immigrant, by Greg Barnes
http://abclocal.go.com/wtvd/story?section=triangle&id=51015407MAR07, Daily Record, Dunn, NCMan Blamed In Wreck Is Illegal Immigrant, by Jason Beck http://www.dunndailyrecord.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=85547&TM=40050.97
8MAR07, The News & Observer
Wreck suspect may be deported -Officials say a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run is here illegally and has prior convictions, by Thomas McDonald