GHENT, W.Va. — A Miami man drove more than 2 miles through oncoming traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike before creating a fatal wrong-way collision Sunday.
“Just one of those things you hate to see because it makes you think about your family,” said state police Sgt. John Alexander. “It was just horrific.”
Rafael Herrera, 43, of Miami, Fla., had pulled over at the Ghent toll plaza for about 15 minutes, and upon restarting, headed the wrong direction in the south-bound lanes. Alexander said Herrera drove more than two miles and passed several vehicles before colliding head-on with a vehicle driven by Lisa McCormick of Knoxville, Tenn.
McCormick died and three teenage girls in her vehicle were flown to the Charleston Area Medical Center via HealthNet. The girls were listed in critical condition. Alexander said the girls are ages 14 and 16 with the age of the third unspecificied.
“We knew about (Herrera), but we couldn’t get to him,” Alexander said. “There’s no way we could get to him, because between the toll booth and the turnaround at the 33.5 mile marker, there’s no way to intercept even if we had somebody right there.”
The Turnpike is divided in that area by a dense, wooded area.
Herrera was hospitalized in Beckley with injuries not believed to be life threatening. He’ll face charges stemming from the crash when he is discharged, Alexander said.
Herrera, who may be wanted on charges of making terrorist threats in Pennsylvania, was on probation in Florida.
“There is some indication a person by that name in Pennsylvania has some issues,” said Alexander. “We’re having our prosecutor in Raleigh County call up there and check the status on that.”