Family, friends remember J-M senior who died in police chase as ‘a happy and humble person’

BY OLIVIA ROJAS, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/22/20

SILER CITY — Friends and family are still mourning the death of Jordan-Matthews High School senior Daniel Zagada-Hernandez, who died May 5 in Asheboro from injuries sustained in a vehicle collision …

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Family, friends remember J-M senior who died in police chase as ‘a happy and humble person’

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Posted

SILER CITY — Friends and family are still mourning the death of Jordan-Matthews High School senior Daniel Zagada-Hernandez, who died May 5 in Asheboro from injuries sustained in a vehicle collision after leading police in a high-speed chase. He was 17.

Zagada-Hernandez, who was scheduled to graduate in June, enjoyed playing soccer and spending time with his friends. One of his close friends, Isaac Gonzalez, 17, a senior at Jordan-Matthews High School, described Zagada-Hernandez as a caring individual.

“Daniel was always a happy and understanding person. He was never negative about anything,” he said.

Yaseen Ali, 18, another close friend of Zagada-Hernandez, said he was “unlike any other person I’ve known.”

“His kindness and gentle heart covered for his big physique,” he said. “He always had high hopes and ambitions, not only for himself, but for everyone around him. He cherished his friendships and family above all.”

Each had other fond recollections of Zagada-Hernandez .

“My favorite memories with him were going to soccer tournaments with him, this one time I went to the beach with him and his family and our car rides together,” said Gonzalez.

Ali remembers a moment where Zagada-Hernandez saved him from drowning.

“One day, Daniel, Isaac and I went cliff jumping,” he said. “I stepped up and leaped in, but I had jumped too far out and couldn’t swim back because I couldn’t swim. Daniel’s first instinct was jumping in right after me and pulling me to the nearest rock.”

Ahilet “Carmen” Zagada-Hernandez, 22, Zagada-Hernandez’s sister, said the two had the typical brother-sister relationship.

“He would always come into my room,” she said. “I would be taking a nap and he would wake me up or if I was doing my makeup and looking in the mirror, he would come in and go ‘move,’ just to see himself in my mirror. I would tell him, ‘you have a mirror in your room’ and he would say how he liked the one I was using better, even if I was using the one in the bathroom or my room.”

Carmen Zagada-Hernandez said she was “staying strong” for her parents and wanted her brother to be remembered in a positive way.

“I’m focused on my parents. I want to be strong for them,” she said. “Daniel was a happy and humble person. He loved his family and his friends. I’m trying to be happy because he was always happy.”

According to a press release from the Asheboro Police Department, Zagada-Hernandez was being pursued by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, traveling west on U.S. Hwy. 64 toward Asheboro at a high rate of speed. Randolph County Sheriff’s Office engaged in the pursuit at some point near Luck Road. According to an article from The Clauson Law Firm, PLLC website, Zagada-Hernandez was wanted for stealing a vehicle, assault and hit-and-run. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office could not confirm nor deny those details.

Zagada-Hernandez got onto I-73/74, traveling northbound in the southbound lane for 2.92 miles before side-swiping a blue Acura driven by Aaron Haynes, 61, of Winston-Salem, and then striking a black Jeep, driven by Haley Hammer, 19, of Ramseur, head-on just north of Salisbury Street in the southbound lane. Haynes had minor injuries which did not require medical treatment; Hammer was transported by EMS with serious injuries.

“All of Daniel’s friends and family acknowledge and are aware of the incident and how dangerous it was,” Ali said. “Please remember that this kind-hearted soul was also a friend, brother, son, cousin, nephew and, for me, the best friend ever. Rest in peace.”

A graveside service was held at Chatham Memorial Park in Siler City on May 11. A GoFundMe page to help with funeral costs can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/f/1zz9ra7p2o. Smith & Buckner Funeral Home is assisting the family.

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