Man arrested after falling asleep at the wheel, killing other driver in head-on crash

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Police have arrested a man who they say fell asleep behind the wheel and hit another car head-on, killing the driver.

Trungquan Le Tran, 23, is charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle.

The crash was reported at 9:03 a.m. on the 10500 block of Steele Creek Road near Collingham Drive, according to Charlotte police.

Police say Tran fell asleep as he was driving his 2009 Honda Accord southbound. He crossed the double yellow line and struck a 2013 Volkswagen Passat head on.

Medics transported the driver of the Passat, 56-year-old Debra Sue Oehmke, with life threatening injuries to Carolinas Medical Center where she was pronounced dead a short time later.

Police say speeding and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash.

Jeanne Nellis, Oemke's neighbor believes Oehmke was on her way to work as an accountant when it happened.

"Cause I'd be out here with my dog she'd be leaving for work between 9 and 10 o'clock in the morning and that's when she'd stop and say hello," said Nellis.

Her hairdresser and friend JC Slawter says a mutual friend told her something happened to Deb.

"I left here and went to the hospital and because I wasn't family of course, the laws I wasn't able to find out anything," said Slawter.

Slawter contacted Oehmke's family in Illinois.

"She was sweet.  Sweetest person you'll ever meet and a good friend," said Slawter.

Slawter now knows a misdemeanor death by motor vehicle charge has been brought against the driver.

"If it was because he was asleep, I'm sad for him also cause his life is forever changed," said Slawter.

Dr. Jaspal Singh of Carolinas Sleep Services says this accident is one of many.

"Driving with sleep-impairment, not having enough sleep is potentially as dangerous as driving drunk," said Singh.

He says people without sleep or who are drunk have similar reactions behind the wheel.

"Huge issue and we don't talk about it much because we don't like to admit that a lot of us have limitations in our work performance in our performance at home," said Singh.

He says trying to roll down the window or turn up the music is not the best move.

"Recognize it and the second you recognize it find a quite place. Stop pull over and close your eyes. It may not always be feasible," said Singh.

He says realizing you need sleep and taking even a brief nap could save your life or prevent you from taking someone else's life.

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