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2 More Die On Roads in Montgomery

Driver May Have Been Drag Racing

By Rebecca Dana
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 3, 2004; Page C01

A man and a woman were killed early yesterday and a third person was seriously injured in a car wreck that Montgomery County police said may have been related to drag racing.

Carlos Brenes, 21, who was driving a Toyota sedan, and a front-seat passenger, Nelly A. Mursal, 21, of Rockville, were killed when the vehicle, which was traveling at high speed, slammed into a large sign pole in Silver Spring just after 1:30 a.m., police said. A back-seat passenger, Elizabeth E. Balcazar, 21, of Silver Spring, was taken to a hospital in critical condition.

Brenes's mother and wife said yesterday that Brenes was enlisted in the Army and based in New York state. He was visiting relatives in Silver Spring. His wife said the passengers were friends of Brenes's.

Calls to Mursal's home yesterday afternoon went unanswered.

The crash was the latest instance in Montgomery of a driver traveling at a high speed and dying behind the wheel. Last weekend, three crashes in the county killed five people who were 16 to 19 years old. One occurred as several cars rapidly drove away from the scene of a drag race as police approached. A car crashed, killing the 19-year-old driver and an 18-year-old passenger.

Capt. John Fitzgerald, a Montgomery police spokesman, said authorities were investigating a report that another vehicle was traveling at a high speed alongside the Toyota at the time of the crash. After last weekend's death, Montgomery police vowed to beef up enforcement against reckless driving, especially drag racing.

"Our point is: If you're doing it, it will undoubtedly end in injury and death when you crash," Fitzgerald said. "Young people have got to drive like they've got something to lose, because they have everything to lose."

The Toyota was traveling west in the 400 block of University Boulevard East, police said.

Brenes, who was staying with family members in the 10000 block of Brunett Avenue; Mursal, of the 12000 block of Veirs Mill Road; and Balcazar, of the 2200 block of Glenallan Avenue, were wearing seat belts, they said.

Brenes's wife, Claudia Brenes, said that she and her husband were married in April and that she is pregnant with their first child. Sitting with her husband's family members at their Silver Spring home yesterday, she recalled her husband as cautious and kind.

"He liked sporty cars, but with me, he never showed that he liked to speed," she said.

Maura Brenes said her son joined the military after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He had come home to celebrate his younger sister's birthday and spend time with another sister who recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq.

"We all feel so sad, depressed," said Claudia Brenes. "It feels like it's just a dream. I'm carrying his baby. That's going to be him. Hopefully, that's going to bring the family together, keep them close and happy. But we're always going to miss him."

Fitzgerald said he hopes the crash will serve as a warning to people, especially youths, who feel the urge to drive fast.

"These are violent, explosive collisions, and the people that survive them often have their lives changed forever," he said. "People just need to listen to this. They need to get it.

"Investigators hold the hands of these parents and tell them that their young child is never, ever coming home again. That's awful duty for everyone involved."


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