SALEM, OR (KPTV) – A community is coming together for a young teenager who was involved in a horrible car crash caused by a wrong-way driver this past weekend.
The teenager, identified by coaches and teammates on the South Salem Saxons as 13-year-old James, of Salem, survived the crash with injuries. However, two people were killed, including James’ mother, Anita Dugger. The wrong-way driver, identified by Oregon State Police as 29-year-old Josue Amando Lopez-Munoz of Prosser, Washington, was also killed.
According to state police, the teen and his mother were traveling east on Interstate 84 on Sunday morning in Gilliam County when they were hit by Lopez-Munoz, who was traveling west in the eastbound lanes.
Lopez-Munoz and Dugger were both pronounced dead at the scene, state police said.
“You think you can prepare your kids for everything, and you almost just can’t,” said Rusty Keith, James’ football coach.
According to Keith, James is a three-season athlete, full of energy and a good teammate. Keith said his son, Nathan, has also been close to James for years.
“I didn’t know what happened, I didn’t know what was wrong with him," Nathan Keith recalled thinking when he heard about the crash. “So, I was just scared. I didn’t know what was going on.”
According to a GoFundMe page, James suffered facial fractures, a broken wrist and broken ribs. He was then airlifted to a hospital.
Rusty Keith said he has already brought his son and some other friends to visit James in the hospital.
“The first thing he said when we walked in there was, ‘I’m playing, coach. And you owe me 13 plays. I’m going to get my 13 plays,’” Rusty Keith said.
While Rusty says it’s still too early to know if James, a seventh grader, will be able to play the sports he loves again, his son Nathan remains confident.
“It’s going to be hard, but I feel like he could get through it,” Nathan Keith said. “He’s tough, he’s big and he’s strong.”
James’ coaches and teammates are trying to help him in other ways, too. They set up a GoFundMe account to help with his medical bills and to contribute to a trust fund.
Monies raised will also be used for funeral and memorial expenses for Dugger, who was a single mother.
“He’s got a family member who’s going to step up there,” said Rusty Keith. “And we want to help her as well. We know how difficult that is, and when you talk about a young man whose got physical trauma from an accident and probably emotional from losing his mom, we just want to make sure that she can focus on him, and focus on herself, and give him the best environment.”
Oregon State Police said Tuesday they were still investigating why Lopez-Munoz was driving the wrong-way.
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