Family tries to recover after death of father and uncle

jalexander@newsobserver.comDecember 31, 2013 

Eduardo Louis Avelar, left, and family member Joel Rodriguez, comfort Eduardo’s mother, Maria Candelaria Rodriguez, as she grieves the death of her husband, Jorge Avelar, who was killed, along with his brother, Andreas, in a car wreck Friday. They were hit head-on by a driver under the influence.

JONATHAN M. ALEXANDER — jalexander@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Maria Candelaria Rodriguez couldn’t hold her emotions in any longer when she got to Holloway Memorial Funeral Home on Tuesday. She had tried to be strong, but her husband was dead – the pain had become too great.

Four days ago, Maria Rodriguez had called her husband, Jorge Avelar, when he didn’t come home from work as planned, after taking his brother Andreas to work.

He didn’t answer his cellphone. She called four more times but still got no answer. Something didn’t feel right. She had her son, Eduardo Avelar, 22, call. No answer.

Soon Rodriguez learned the truth: Neither her husband nor her brother-in-law would come home again. They had been killed in a 5:50 a.m. collision, the victims, police say, of an impaired driver with a history of driving infractions and drug charges.

The brothers, natives of El Salvador who friends and family describe as hard-working family men, were defenseless in their Isuzu Rodeo when, according to police, a Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by Robert P. Breeden III of Raleigh, crossed the center line of N.C. 98 in Durham County and smashed head-on into them.

Efforts to reach Breeden, 20, who faces two charges of felony death by vehicle, were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Driving the two-lane highway was routine for the Avelars who had driven the route for five years from their home in Durham to jobs in Wake Forest. On Friday Jorge Avelar, 43, was on vacation, but was driving his brother, Andreas Avelar, 53, to work in Wake Forest and to pick up his check. Jorge was supposed to come right back home.

“I called my friend on the job and he said, ‘They didn’t come to work today,’ ” Eduardo Avelar said, in halting English.

So Maria Rodriguez sent her son to look for him.

He followed the route his father and uncle had taken to work. But police had blocked off the highway near Coley Road. The sheriff’s deputy told him that there had been a wreck and he couldn’t go any further.

“He said, ‘You shouldn’t care; it’s not your problem,’ ” Eduardo Avelar said.

But Eduardo had a feeling his father was involved in the wreck. He gave the officer his father’s and uncle’s name and the officer recommended that he go to Duke Hospital.

At the hospital, the news got worse. His suspicions were true. Both his father and uncle were dead and likely had been killed instantly in the collision with Breeden’s truck.

“The doctor said there’s nothing you can do,” Eduardo said Tuesday, voice cracking and tears in his eyes.

Jorge and Andreas Avelar, were both fathers and husbands. Jorge moved to the United States 14 years ago to make a better future for his family, his wife said in her native Spanish.

Andreas moved to the U.S. eight years ago to provide for his family, who remained in El Salvador.

Jorge had two children, one he informally adopted, and Eduardo, by his wife, Maria. Andreas had six children.

Maria described her husband and brother-in-law as hardworking men. She said her husband was a good man, who loved to relax while on vacation.

“He was a good husband, good father and a great person,” Maria Rodriguez said, crying.

Previous charges

Police said the man responsible for the loss of two lives was under the influence of a substance other than alcohol. Breeden’s bail was set at $500,000, and he was released from jail later Friday after posting bond.

Court records show that Breeden has four pending court dates in the first two months of 2014, according to court records.

Fifteen days before the fatal accident, Breeden was charged with driving 56 mph in a 35 mph zone. That trial date is set for Feb. 5.

He has three other court dates on Jan. 10, 14 and 16, on charges ranging from drug possession, to hit-and-run with destruction of property, speeding and reckless driving.

He pled not guilty in court Monday in charges stemming from the deaths of the Avelar brothers.

“I don’t know why he’s out, and he killed two guys,” Eduardo Avelar said at the family home.

Then he continued, his voice fading. “I don’t understand. He killed two guys. He killed two guys.”

Highway Patrol Sgt. Steven Smith said the preliminary drug evaluation suggested that Breeden was under the influence of marijuana. Blood test results are pending.

Witness saw incident

William Wilkinson of Raleigh witnessed the accident, according to police. In an interview, Wilkinson said he was driving to work before dawn Friday when he saw a truck in front of him drifting over the center line.

“He was driving all over the road,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson called the police on his cellphone to let them know. For a mile he followed the truck in the predawn darkness. As the vehicles rounded a curve, Wilkinson said, he saw the headlights of another car about to round the corner and sensed a wreck about to happen. He told the operator on the phone.

The Dodge pickup truck sent Avelar’s Isuzu 20-25 feet off to the side, Wilkinson recalled.

“When myself and two other gentlemen approached the vehicle to go help, it was apparent the driver (Jorge Avelar) was dead,” he said. He could not tell the status of Andreas Avelar.

Accident reports show that Avelar tried to swerve off the road to the right to avoid the truck. However, when he swerved to the right, the driver of truck drove into him, according to a police diagram of the accident.

‘A responsible man’

Alejandro Ernesto Figueroa, a lifelong friend of the Avelars, said he knew Jorge as a loving father and husband, who liked playing soccer.

“He was a very hardworking and responsible man,” Figueroa said in his native Spanish.

He also described Andreas as responsible and hardworking, a protector, who came to the U.S. to provide for his six children in El Salvador, one with a disability.

Both bodies will be flown to El Salvador Friday for funeral services.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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