The North Carolina Highway Patrol is investigating a double fatal crash on Highway 15-501 near Bynum in Chatham County.
The crash happened around 8 a.m. Monday on U.S. 15 in Chatham County just outside the city limits of Pittsboro, said Lt. Jeff Gordon of the Highway Patrol.
The crash left a Northwood High School senior dead — just 5 days from her planned graduation on Saturday, officials said.
The wreck also killed a Pinehurst man who was the chair of UNC Chapel Hill’s aerospace studies department and was the commander of the Air Force ROTC program at the university, officials said..
Yolanda Gonzalez-Saavedra, 18, of Chapel Hill, who attended Northwood, died after the 1999 Tahoe SUV she was driving crashed, Gordon said.
John Wade Collins, 44, of Pinehurst was killed after his 2008 Toyota Camry was involved in the crash, Gordon said.
Collins was a lieutenant colonel and was the commander of AFROTC Detachment 590. Collins was also the Chair of the Department of Aerospace Studies at UNC, according to the school.
“This is a tough loss for his family as well as Detachment 590,” Henry L. Sims Jr, who is an assistant professor in the aerospace studies department, wrote on Facebook. “We are working hard to determine the way forward. For now, please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Collins was also a former flight instructor for C-130 courses and had 2,700 flying hours, according to the school.
According to the Patrol, the crash happened when the Chevrolet Tahoe was traveling south on U.S. 15 near Ruth Lane and it traveled into the median and began to overturn.
The Tahoe then crossed over into the northbound lanes where it traveled into the path of a 2011 Toyota Camry.
The driver of the 2011 Camry swerved to the right due to debris, avoiding a head-on collision, before coming to a final rest against the shoulder’s guardrail.
However, the Tahoe continued to rollover, landing on top of a 2008 Toyota Camry before coming to a final rest, Gordon said.
Gonzalez-Saavedra and Collins both died.
Collins graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas A&M University in December 1992, according to info from UNC’s website.
After completing Undergraduate Navigator Training at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in June 1995, Collins served one operational C-130 tour at Yokota Air Base, Japan, and two operational tours at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina. Collins also served as a flight instructor for C-130 qualification training courses while stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.
Most recently, Collins commanded the 43d Operations Support Squadron at Pope Army Airfield and was a Master Navigator with more than 2,700 flying hours, UNC’s website said.
The driver of the 2011 Toyota Camry was transported to UNC-Chapel Hill with non-life threatening injuries.
“It is unclear at this time what caused the Tahoe to travel into the median,” Gordon said.
Troopers are continuing their investigation into this collision.
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