Just two weeks after graduating with his Masters in Public Policy from Duke, Augie Gonzalez, 36, died in a car crash Saturday that also killed his two daughters.
The wreck in Kentucky that killed the U.S. Army major and his daughters Noelle, 6, and Gwendolyn, 2, came on Memorial Day Weekend. Gonzalez, who graduated from the Sanford School of Public Policy this May, is survived by his wife, Melissa, the couple’s newborn son, Gabriel, and their son Nick, who was in the car accident but sustained minor injuries.
“All the members of the Sanford community are greatly saddened by the tragic news of the passing of Augie Gonzalez and his two precious daughters,” wrote Judith Kelley, dean of the Sanford School, in a Facebook post. “Augie was an exemplary student, deeply engaged with life in our school, and it was with great pride that we congratulated him and his family on his graduation just two weeks ago when he was accompanied by his wife Melissa and their children. Our thoughts go out to his family during this trying time.”
Gonzalez, his daughters and 8-year-old son Nick were driving from North Carolina to U.S. Army base Fort Carson in Colorado, and his wife and newborn son were traveling by plane to Colorado to meet up with them. Gonzalez was driving near Bonnieville, Kentucky when he rear-ended a parked tow truck that was partially in his lane.
“Augie didn't see the truck and hit its rear end,” a GoFundMe page made to support the Gonzalez family reads. The family has received more than $100,000 in donations.
Gonzalez was pronounced dead at the site of the accident. His daughters later died at local hospitals. His son Nick sustained minor injuries and received treatment at a local hospital. Investigators said that all four people in the car were wearing seatbelts. The tow truck driver was not in the vehicle nor injured.
Stephen Mitchell, Gonzalez's neighbor of two years in Cary, remembered Gonzalez for his service to his family and country in an interview with CBS17.
"We had spent the night with them Friday night, having dinner and seeing them off. [We] gave them a big hug when I left the house, and said call me when you get to Colorado. I never got that call," Mitchell said. "He was all about serving his country. A great dad. Had four kids. Wanted to be around his kids. Wanted to be around his wife. Just a true all-American."
According to NJ.com, Gonzalez was at Duke through the Downing Scholars Program, a "fully funded two year graduate program" that "competitively selects four to six Army officers per year to attend graduate school at the world’s most elite academic institutions."
Gonzalez was deployed four times for a NATO-led operation in Afghanistan and once in Korea. He earned an Afghanistan Campaign Medal with four combat stars and the Bronze Star Medal, among other decorations.
“Look at everything that he has done for his country and on Memorial Day this tragedy happens,” Mitchell said. “It just isn't fair."
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