Driver charged in deadly crash after car plunged off bridge into creek

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. — The driver involved in a deadly crash in Catawba County on Jan. 30 has been charged.

Officials say 19-year-old Luis Javier Chavez II, of Hickory, was speeding when he lost control of his car, went off the road and overturned into a creek on Kool Park Road near Hickory at 5:30 a.m.

Troopers said his passenger, 17-year-old Martin Santillan, died at the scene.

Officials said Chavez was traveling more than 60 mph in a 45 mph zone.

Chavez is facing charges of driving with a revoked license, reckless driving and misdemeanor death by vehicle.

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Troopers said Chavez told them he was trying to avoid another car in his lane when he lost control and ended up in the creek.

First responders stationed on the bridge told Channel 9 the vehicle flipped over the side of the span and landed upside down in the creek below.

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Troopers said Chavez managed to crawl from the car, walk to a nearby home and knock on the door to get help.

The temperatures overnight fell into the teens in the Hickory area.

Channel 9 spoke with the neighbor, who said she woke up to someone frantically banging on her door. It was the driver, who was soaking wet.

“When my husband went outside, he saw the boy drenched and wet, so he came inside and we got him a blanket," neighbor Alyse Miller said. "My husband ran down to the car, but I found out how bad he was hurt.”

Investigators said they have not been able to locate the second vehicle involved.

Troopers said they do not suspect alcohol use played a role in the crash.

Carroll Baker, who lives nearby, said there have been other deadly crashes in the same location.

He told Channel 9 that more guardrails need to be put up to prevent cars from ending up in the water.

“It’s dangerous, very dangerous,” Baker said. “(Guardrails are needed so) people couldn’t run into the creek. At least they would hit the rails instead of running into the creek.”

Channel 9 reached out to the North Carolina Department of Transportation and found out their regional traffic office will conduct a site investigation and will work to implement any recommendations from the investigation.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.