20-year-old Hallettsville woman killed in crash with tractor-trailer truck
YOAKUM - A Hallettsville woman was killed by an 18-wheeler Tuesday as she tried to escape from her car moments after the two vehicles collided.
Naomi Jean Cruz, 20, was killed when she fell or jumped from the passenger side door of her car. The tractor-trailer's grill was inches away from her driver's side window.
She was run over by the truck as it pushed her car along U.S. Highway 77.
"It appears she opened the door, panicking from the truck right by the driver's window, came out of the vehicle and was run over," said Department of Public Safety Trooper Gerald Bryant, public information officer.
She was on her way to a job interview at a Victoria hospital when the wreck happened, said friend Michelle Pardy. She worked at a Hallettsville nursing home.
Cruz was a graduate of Victoria College and studied phlebotomy, Pardy said.
She was engaged to Ivan Moreno of Yoakum who is serving overseas in the military.
News of her death spread quickly through Hallettsville.
Justin Kolos said he and Cruz were good friends all through school in Hallettsville.
"She was a great girl. A very hard worker," Kolos said. "She was a friend that if you needed her, she would be there for you. She was a beautiful girl who knew what she wanted in life."
Cruz once competed in the Miss Hallettsville pageant and had recently gotten a new Chihuahua puppy that she "adored."
"Naomi worked at the nursing home and when I would go there with my aunt I would see her there singing, while she worked or always finding a way to bring a smile to other people's faces," Pardy added.
The preliminary investigation indicates that Cruz's 2008 Chevrolet Malibu and a 2005 Peterbilt tractor-trailer truck were traveling south on U.S. Highway 77 about a half mile south of the intersection of state Highway 111, Bryant said.
Cruz was in the outside lane. The truck, driven by Dennis Wayne Freeze, 48, of Yoakum, was hauling a load of sand in the inside lane.
"It looks like she started to change lanes as the truck approached along side her," Bryant said. "The left side passenger area was struck by the front of the truck."
The car turned sideways, stuck on the front of the truck, and was pushed more than a half mile along the highway as the driver slowed to a stop.
"He didn't know what had happened," Bryant said. "He said he thought he had a blowout."
Freeze was not injured.
Lavaca County Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Alene Lyons conducted an inquest at the scene. She did not order an autopsy.
The investigation into the wreck is continuing. DPS Trooper Craig Wycoff of Yoakum is the lead investigator.
Pardy concluded, "Naomi always had her beautiful smile on her face and was always such a happy person. She also had a beautiful voice that I know she will definitely use to entertain everyone in heaven."