Posted on May 19, 2012

In late March, a car crash caused by a wrong-way driver inflicted significant injuries on two people near the town of Neenah.

The incident occurred around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28. The Wisconsin State Patrol was notified that a Chevrolet Lumina was traveling south in the northbound lanes of U.S. 41. Sgt. Tim McGrath told reporters, “We had a trooper in the area that observed that vehicle going the wrong way, he began to pursue it, tried to intercept it, and stop it. Unfortunately [he] was unable to in time and a crash resulted on 41 northbound.”

The Lumina collided with a Chevrolet Aveo driven by Victor A. Rivera, a 32-year-old Appleton resident. The crash happened near State Highway 10. The driver of the wrong-way car fled the scene.

Rivera was injured in the collision, and emergency responders took him to Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah. He was treated for a broken rib and subsequently released.

Rodney A. Gruse, 31 of Oshkosh, was a passenger in Rivera’s Aveo and suffered life-threatening injuries in the crash. He was also taken to Theda Clark, and later transferred by medical helicopter to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee. Gruse was listed in critical condition shortly after arrival at Froedtert Hospital, and there has been no update on his condition since then.

The wrong-way car was abandoned at the crash site, but investigators found a box of business cards with the driver’s information. A trail of blood from the driver’s injuries also helped to track down the driver. About half an hour later, police found the driver at a nearby gas station. He was identified as Miguel V. Cruz, 33, of Mosinee. He had suffered minor injuries in the accident. Cruz was arrested for drunken driving causing great bodily harm.

On Monday, April 2, Cruz was charged in Winnebago County Court with three felonies. They include operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causing injury, hit-and-run causing great bodily harm, and knowingly operating a motor vehicle with a suspended driver’s license causing great bodily harm. The maximum penalty for conviction on all three felony charges is 24½ years imprisonment and $70,000 in fines.

The criminal complaint noted that Cruz told police he had “done something stupid, that he had drank and drove and had been involved in a crash.” 

Until his preliminary hearing, Cruz is being held in the Winnebago County Jail on a $25,000 cash bond. 

The Appleton traffic accident attorneys and staff at Hupy and Abraham hope for a speedy and complete recovery for all the people injured in this unfortunate accident. Head-on car crashes have become all too frequent in the evening hours on Wisconsin’s highways, and alcohol is often a factor in these collisions. We hope every driver will stay alert for the sudden appearance of vehicles in the wrong lanes.