WAKE FOREST, N.C. (WNCN) – A mother with a young daughter was killed in a terrifying accident Wednesday morning when a dump truck slammed into her Volkswagen on Highway 98 near Wake Forest.
Lisa Ortuno, 46, of Wake Forest died at the scene of N.C. 98 at Baya Vista Way in Wake County. “I think we’re still just kind of in shock, I just can’t, I can’t believe it,” said Ortuno’s neighbor and friend, Emily Harrison.
Highway Patrol said Cheznee Johnson, 37, of Wake Forest was driving a Nissan when she crossed the center line of N.C. 98 for an unknown reason.
Alfredo Carbajal, 55, of Durham was driving a dump truck coming from the opposite direction and swerved to avoid Johnson’s Nissan. But Carbajal’s truck, which was empty at the time, toppled over onto Ortuno’s Volkswagen.
Ortuno lived in Wake Forest with her partner and 9-year-old daughter, a neighbor said. Ortuno, who had a PhD in biology from the University of South Carolina, worked for Promega in clinical technology development.
Friends described her as a genuinely open and free-spirited person.
“She was a wonderful neighbor, a breath of fresh air. Very down to earth and just a kind-hearted generous person,” said a neighbor, Leah Flach. “We were lucky to have her as a neighbor.”
“I can’t imagine not having her here,” said Harrison.
Harrison noted that Ortuno had a PhD in biology, which Harrison thought was intimidating after Ortuno moved into the neighborhood about a year ago.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, that might be a little scary to be around someone so highly educated.’ But boy she was so funny and so accepting from the very beginning,” said Harrison.
The reality that their friend and neighbor was gone after the stunning accident was still sinking in for them Wednesday afternoon.
“You see this on the news all the time and you don’t click on it, or you think, ‘oh gosh that accident looked really bad.’ And then you keep going,” Harrison said. “And it never occurs to you that could have been my husband who goes to work that way every day. But today it was Lisa and I just hope that it was fast, and she wasn’t scared.”
“We will miss her very much. But we will keep her memory alive,” said Flach.
Johnson, in the Nissan, suffered minor injuries and Carbajal, in the dump truck, was OK. Johnson and Carbajal were treated at the scene by EMS.
The crash remains under investigation.