Funeral planned for UNC dept. chair who died in crash

Funeral plans have been made for a Pinehurst dad and husband who died in a crash in Chatham County on Monday.


John Wade Collins, age 44, was in his car around 8 am when an SUV driven by a teen girl crossed the US 15 median in Chatham County, just outside the city limits of Pittsboro, officials say.

The SUV collided with Collins’ car and also killed the SUV driver, 18-year-old Yolanda Gonzalez-Saavedra, 18, of Chapel Hill.

Collins, who was married and leaves behind children, was a professor and chair of the Aerospace Studies department at UNC Chapel Hill.

Collins was a Lt. Colonel and was the commander of the Air Force ROTC program at the university. He also was a former flight instructor for C-130 courses and had 2,700 flying hours.

On Tuesday, many mourned his loss.

“His work ethic and dedication are echoed by the outpour of support from the cadets, staff, faculty, university and military officials. He will be greatly missed,” said Capt. Henry L. Sims, an assistant professor in the department and also an instructor of the AF ROTC.

Collins, who served on active duty for more than 20 years, came to the UNC Aerospace Studies department in the Summer of 2014, when he was designated as the chair.

Before UNC, Collins was at Pope Air Base director of operations for the 2nd Airlift Squadron and commander of the 43rd Operations Support Squadron for 4 years, officials said.

“He will be deeply missed by his colleagues in the College. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this tragic time,” wrote Karen M. Gil, Ph.D, the dean of the UNC College of Arts and Sciences.

The funeral for Collins will be Thursday at 2 pm at Pinehurst United Methodist Church, 4111 Airport Road in Pinehurst. Boles Funeral Home is assisting the family.

Collins’ family prefers donations to Pinehurst United Methodist Church or the group No Greater Sacrifice, according to Facebook.

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