An ambulance carrying a young boy to a hospital for treatment was hit early Sunday by a drunken driver in North Carolina, overturning the medical transport and leaving the boy fighting for his life, authorities said.

The youngster was en route to a trauma center with his mother around 1 a.m. when the Virginia-based ambulance was struck on a North Carolina highway, said Winston-Salem Police Lt. Rick Newnum. He described the boy as a toddler or an infant.

The boy had been in stable condition before the crash north of downtown Winston-Salem but emerged from the wreck with life-threatening injuries, Newnum said.

"There is this mother transporting her small child to a trauma center, and she's in the ambulance with her small child as they get flipped over by a drunk driver," Newnum said in a phone interview. "And now this child is fighting for his life."

Newnum said the boy was under the care of emergency medical personnel in the ambulance at the time, but he didn't have further information about why the boy was being taken to a hospital before the crash.

Police declined to identify the child. A police statement said the mother and two other adults aboard the ambulance were treated for minor injuries.

Jose Martin Duran Romero, 27, of Winston-Salem was charged with driving while intoxicated, failure to reduce speed and driving without a license, police said. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney. Jail records show he was being held Sunday afternoon, and no home phone listing for him could be found. Romero's passenger was charged with failure to render aid.

The ambulance and Romero's car were both heading south on U.S. 52 when investigators say the car hit the left side of the medical transport, causing both drivers to lose control. The ambulance then rolled over on its side. The crash closed a stretch of the highway for three hours overnight.

No phone listing could be found for the 27-year-old woman aboard the ambulance, whose address was listed in Wise, Virginia.

The ambulance was operated by LifeCare Ambulance in Wise. A manager with LifeCare didn't immediately return a message seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the Winston-Salem hospital where the boy was taken said she had no further details.


Drew reported from Durham, North Carolina.