Crime & Courts

Passenger dies when car splits in half after hitting tree off south Charlotte road

A passenger died when a car split in half after hitting a tree off a south Charlotte road Friday, police said.

Faustino Israel Ponce Romero, 19, was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck in the 900 block of Archdale Drive, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said in a news release.

The 21-year-old driver, Jose Mario Mejia-Gutierrez, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless driving, no operator’s license and failure to maintain insurance on the Scion TC car.

Jose Mejia-Gutierrez.jpg
Jose Mejia-Gutierrez Mecklenburg County jail

Police have not divulged how fast they believe Mejia-Gutierrez was driving, but said in the release that speed contributed to the wreck.

Mejia-Gutierrez was arrested after being treated for minor injuries and released at Atrium Health Center, according to police. He was in the Mecklenburg County jail Saturday on $20,000 bail, jail records show.

Mejia-Gutierrez veered off westbound Archdale Drive after losing control as he left a curve just after 3 p.m., according to the CMPD news release. The car “separated in half” when its right front passenger door hit the tree, police said in the release.

“The front half of the Scion continued traveling through a field, rotating clockwise” and ejecting Ponce Romero, who was wearing a seat belt, according to the news release. Ponce Romero and the front half of the car ended up 150 feet from the tree, police said.

Anyone with information is urged to call police at 704-432-2169, extension 4.

Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.